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County’s First Short-stay Traveller Site Opposed

Published on: 7 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 7 Mar, 2022

The entrance to Pendell Camp, a county council-owned Gypsy, Roma and Traveller site off Merstham Road, near Bletchingley. Image Google Maps

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Surrey’s first proposed short-stay Traveller site near Bletchingley is not supported by Tandridge District Council.

A meeting of the council’s Planning Committee voted last week (March 3) to object to Surrey County Council’s application for the short-stay site in Merstham.

A motion to allow the proposal to proceed was put forward by Liberal Democrat councillor Simon Morrow (Warlingham East Chelsham & Farleigh), but was defeated. The decision will now go to SCC.

Positioned close to the M25, councillors highlighted concerns over noise at the site and officers had recommended objecting to the application based on it being in the green belt and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The decision had been deferred from a January meeting, to give the county council more time to provide information on the proposed site.

Cllr Morrow said he thought the “secluded” location of the site next to the motorway and in a “scruffy field” was in its favour.

He added: “How it can be called Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I can’t imagine. The impact on the green belt would be minimal.

“And the benefit to the district as a whole of having a transit site would be significant.”

Officers said Surrey County Council had identified that because of the layout of the site around half of the pitches on the site, intended for a maximum four-week stay at a time, would not have noise levels from the motorway that were deemed too high.

They also pointed to the fact that people would only stay at the site on a temporary basis.

Cllr Gill Black (Conservative, Bletchingley & Nutfield) said the permanent Pendell site, alongside the proposed location being discussed, was not being well looked after by the county council.

She said: “It is an absolute disgrace. It is inhuman the way Surrey County Council have ignored that site for tens of years.

“What will happen with a new camp? It’ll end up just the same.”

She said she’d heard from residents there currently that they “feared for their lives” if the application were to be approved.

The temporary site would have a site manager’s office and amenity blocks.

Surrey Police hopes it would cut down on the number of unauthorised encampments in the county, because it would give a location where Travellers could be accommodated when moved on.

Cllr Liz Lockwood (Independents and OLRG Alliance, Lingfield & Crowhurst) said she was concerned about fine particulate pollution from the motorway.

She said: “I don’t think noise is the only environmental issue. I think the diesel particulates are an ongoing issue, the M25 is reputedly producing more nitrogen particulates than Gatwick Airport.

“So it’s not a particularly healthy environment and we have a duty as councillors and as planning makers to make sure that people have a good place to live.”

Councillors voted to object to the site, with officers saying that, so far, the county council had given “great weight” to the district council’s response, having asked for more time to put forward the case but that now the district had come to the end of the road in terms of its responsibility and the decision would be made at county level.

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