Teenage girl’s Government plea to stop Hart gypsy site

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A SCHOOLGIRL has written a heartfelt letter to the Government Planning Inspectorate pleading with them not to let a controversial gypsy site go ahead in her village.

Sophie Harkness, 13, has appealed in her letter to the powers-that-be “to let whoever needs to know about our worries and please ask them to try their hardest to stop the gyspy site coming to Hart village”.

The High Tunstall College of Science student grew up in Hart, with her 10-year-old brother Sam, who has also signed the letter.

Her proud mum Pip Harkness, a nurse who has grown up in the village and is married to self-employed Christopher, told last Wednesday night’s public meeting about her daughter’s letter and suggested other local parents get their youngsters to make their feelings known, saying “it’s their future”.

Since then, around half a dozen other youngsters in the village and surrounding area have also put pen to paper.

In the letter, Sophie writes that her “family and friends and local residents all disgree on the gyspy site coming to Hart village” and describes how she has lived in the village all of her life and enjoys being able to play out with her friends.

She claims in the letter that police were called after a gyspies previously came to stay on grassland at the bottom of the village near her home and lit a fire and invited friends to “drink cans of beer which ended up with lots of people who made lots of noise in cars which frightened my brother and I”.

She added that when the caravan left, lots of mess had been left behind and the grass had been damaged.

Sophie adds: “We have seen progammes on television about gypsy sites and although we know that all people aren’t the same, we are worried about our little village turning into an area of crime.”

She describes how local farmer John Britton, who farms the land on both sites, “works hard and we know he will be very upset by his field being taken away”.

Sophie also says the local school, Hart Primary, is “very small and won’t have places for the gypsy children”.

Sophie put pen to paper straight away after the announcement that Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee had earmarked the two sites in Hart for the gypsy/traveller site.

Pip said at the time her daughter did not know who to address it to, but that it has now been sent to Jim Riddle, who is acting as an arbitrator for the planning inspector.

She added: “On the night it was announced, a lot of the kids were in the village when the parents were talking about it.

“The children were quite worried about it and how it would impact on their village.

“It’s going to be around for us, but it’s their future as well – children need to be consulted on this as well.”

Pip suggested that a focus group could be set up for young people, asking their views, as it will have a “significant impact on their lives”.

People can email Mr Riddle at jimriddle@tiscali.co.uk or write to him c/o Planning Services, Hartlepool Borough Council, Bryan Hanson House, Hanson Square, TS24 9BT up until early September.