Public consultation must involve public

MADAM - Reading the EDDC spokeswoman s responses to the travellers sites issue, February 6 edition, brought to mind the well-known Morecambe and Wise response What a load of rubbish!

MADAM - Reading the EDDC spokeswoman's responses to the travellers' sites issue, February 6 edition, brought to mind the well-known Morecambe and Wise response "What a load of rubbish"!

This is because she states there has been "recent public consultation" on the siting of gypsy camps. She also says that the owner of the land at Bowd is a gypsy. Wrong! On both counts.

If she goes to government websites she will find that "public consultation", not surprisingly, involves contact with the public! Not just with a select few, but with the public at large. Such representative response is best achieved by questionnaires published in the local press but, having checked with The Herald, EDDC has not asked that any questionnaire on the siting of gypsy camps be published, neither have the general public been contacted directly.

Secondly, and importantly, the gentleman (Jimmy Small) who owns the site mentioned at Bowd is not a gypsy - but a landowner. Included in his portfolio is land at Tipton St John, where he lives, and land at Bowd, which he personally is permitted to work by EDDC.

The chief executive and/or head of planning, both of whom drive by Bowd several times a day, are well aware of the history and sensitivity of that site.

For instance, planning permission has been refused on several important counts: it would form strip development, is in an area of particular importance as the first access from Exeter to the town, has insufficient access and sewerage capacity to support a dwelling (never mind a gypsy site), would require considerable changes to the road network to permit safe access, is adjacent to several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty etc.

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They will also recall that the current activities (felling of trees) is permitted only for the current owner; an allowance given because he is not a gypsy, but a local man who has lived in the Sid Valley for more than 50 years.

As to possible alternative sites, why not be really positive and really consult with the general public and put forward considered proposals? Perhaps negotiate to buy one or two of the many caravan sites already existing in the Sidmouth/Newton Poppleford area? There would be no or little change of use and the sites could be updated to provide modern homes with good facilities, close to local amenities including schools, etc.