Hart Parish plans to launch gypsy site legal challenge

Hart Village
Hart Village

A PARISH council is preparing to launch a legal battle against the decision to have a gypsy site in the village and are to amount a fighting fund to pay for the costs.

Hart Parish Council held a meeting behind closed doors to try to establish how it would tackle the controversial issue of having a travellers’ site on its doorstep.

Members of the public were denied access, but afterwards the parish council spoke to the Mail and said it was willing to take its fight to the top and even call for a judicial review to stop the travellers setting up home on Hart Smallholdings East, or Hart Smallholdings West.

Parish council chairman John Littlefair said: “A lot of issues have been discussed and we feel like we need to fight this because to have two options for a gypsy site in this village is an absolute disgrace.

“For the Policy and Finance Committee (at Hartlepool Borough Council) to suggest two options in Hart Village is beyond belief.”

He added: “We are looking down the route of a legal challenge which will be expensive.

“Unfortunately we have limited funds so we’ll have to raise a fighting fund for that.

“We will go all the way to a judicial review if necessary because we aren’t happy about this at all.”

The parish council highlighted a local authority document showing a list of the initial earmarked town sites, and the two suggested in Hart Village were ranked as among the least sustainable, compared to West View Road and Hucklehoven Way which were classed as being of “strong” sustainability.

Keith Fisher, independent councillor for the Hart ward, who attended the private meeting, said: “This site should have been the last site chosen, and that’s going by their criteria, not ours.

“It is outrageous.”

The closed-doors meeting caused some confusion among villagers who turned up at Hart Village Hall expecting to have their say in a public meeting.

But the parish councillors felt they needed to get “on top” of the issue.

Mr Littlefair said: “We have been absolutely inundated with telephone calls from people concerned about this issue. Unfortunately this was a closed meeting because we felt we had to get on top of the situation and decide how we were going to tackle it.”

A public meeting – to which MP Iain Wright, Hartlepool Borough Coucil chief executive Dave Stubbs, and council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher have been invited – will be held tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 6.30pm in Hart Village Hall.

Housing developer Leebell – a joint venture between Bellway and Persimmon homes – are also protesting against the gypsy site as it would sit opposite the place where the companies hope to build 500 homes to extend the Middle Warren estate.

The council committees decision also sparked a social media messaging frenzy with dozens of people commenting on the Mail’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages.