Hart councillor writes open letter to planning inspector over gypsy site

Paul Beck
Paul Beck

A COUNCILLOR has written to a planning inspector voicing his concerns after Hart village was chosen as the preferred site for a gypsy and traveller site and said many residents are threatening to move out.

Labour councillor Paul Beck, who represents the Hart ward, said he “totally disagrees” with the decision to choose Hart ahead of the proposals going before the Government’s planning inspector Kevin Ward.

Mr Ward will meet to resume the Local Plan examination in September.

Coun Beck was last week accused of letting down villagers after he failed to support a review of the gypsy and traveller site decision but he hit back and said he is fully behind residents and won’t be resigning.

He also said it wouldn’t have made any difference if he had backed the review as the majority of councillors did not support it.

The finance and policy committee opted for Hart Smallholdings West, to the west of Hart village, as their preferred site with Hart Smallholdings East the back-up option.

In the letter, Coun Beck said: “My major concerns are for the residents who have suffered immeasurable over the past few years, two licenced establishments who rely heavily on passing trade to stay in business from tourists who come from many parts of the country to the various historical artefacts in Hart Village.

“Many residents are threatening to move away from the village due to the decision.

“The Hart East site would have a major impact not only on the residents of Hart Village but also Clavering and Bishop Cuthbert.

“As ward councillor I am working along side the Parish Council to get this decision overturned.

“Both sites would be totally wrong for gypsy and travellers, they need to be near doctors surgery; none in the village, near a school that could accommodate their children; the Hart Primary is full to capacity, near a supermarket; the nearest one is Sainsbury’s Bishop Cuthbert.”

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher has previously said the site would only be developed if a demand was identified and that the decision was made after listening to the evidence.

The examination resumes on Tuesday, September 24, at Hartlepool College of Further Education, in Stockton Street, at 10am.

Jim Riddle, programme officer for the inquiry, confirmed to the Mail the meeting will be open to the public.

Those people eligible to speak will receive notification in advance.