Murrays Lane gypsy site meeting attracts hundreds of Byfleet villagers
By mattcollison | Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 11:17
HUNDREDS of villagers have gathered in Byfleet in a show of opposition to plans for a gypsy site in their community.
Byfleet residents attended a meeting over plans for a gypsy site in Murrays Lane.
Hundreds of people could not get into the packed meeting at Byfleet Village Hall on Monday night (February 11).
Residents and councillors were taken by surprise when an unforeseen planning application for four traveller's pitches on agricultural land in Murrays Lane was submitted on January 12.
Byfleet, West Byfleet and Pyrford Residents' Association organised Monday night's (February 12) meeting, with local councillors and Woking MP Jonathan Lord on stage at Byfleet Village Hall to answer questions.
A crowd of more than 300 people gathered at the High Road venue filling the hall and spilling out into the car park. The packed venue was stretched to capacity, forcing other residents to be turned away with another resident's meeting re-scheduled at the hall next week.
Drawings of the plans, which could see four pitches, four day rooms, hardstanding and a septic tank installed on the green belt site, were put on display.
Mr Lord said he will lobby Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities, in an effort to stop the application going ahead.
He said: "It is a completely inappropriate use of green belt land. We need to safeguard the green space around our villages and communities."
He added: "Most fair minded people in this room would say there should be provision for travellers but it needs to be done on a fair basis and they shouldn't be able to invade any old field and set up a pitch.
"In this case the applicant has not done that. He has put in an application and he should be respected for doing that because he is playing by the rules and we need to play by the rules as well."
Richard Thomas, vice chairman of the Byfleet, West Byfleet and Pyrford Residents' Association, quoted a planing officer who said the application should be refused because it did not include an adequate flood risk assessment.
Dozens of residents also took to the floor to speak out against the plans, with Byfleet Scouts and Reverend John McCabe, of St Mary's Church in Byfleet among the objectors.
The residents association said it invited the applicant to attend the meeting, but he declined the offer.
Only one brave resident spoke out in favour of the proposals, provoking angry responses from some.
He said: "I am saddened by what I have seen here tonight. There is nobody on the stage who has spoken on behalf of the Romany gypsies. I live down the road from Murrays Lane and I feel the exact opposite, it seems, of everybody in this room."
A consultation on the proposals will continue until February 25.
Did you go to the meeting at Byfleet Village Hall? What do you think about the plans for a traveller's site in Murrays Lane? Leave your comment below.