Andrew Lansley calls for travellers' site not to reopen

Andrew Lansley
Image caption Andrew Lansley does not support a council proposal to reopen Mettle Hill travellers' site

An MP has said a council move to reopen a travellers' site in Cambridgeshire does not "make sense".

Andrew Lansley backed opponents to South Cambridgeshire District Council's plan to reopen Mettle Hill in Meldreth.

The council has announced plans to spend £500,000 on the scheme but is yet to submit a planning application.

A spokesman for the authority said reopening the site would help it meet its obligations to provide sufficient accommodation for travellers.

It currently manages two travellers' sites and has 35 Gypsy and traveller families on its waiting list.

The authority now wants to use £500,000 of government funding to reopen Mettle Hill with new facilities and eight to 10 pitches.

'No-go zone'

Villagers and travelling showpeople who live on land next to Mettle Hill are campaigning against the proposal.

Mettle Hill was closed in 1996 as a result of anti-social behaviour and public disorder issues.

Resident Christine Knight said the area became a "no-go zone".

She added: "Let's face it, we haven't had a chance to vote on it.

"We're almost being told it's a fait accompli but we will fight it."

Sarah May Birch, one of the travelling showpeople who live opposite Mettle Hill, said she was "heartbroken" at the news.

She said it would lead to a situation similar to tensions surrounding the Dale Farm travellers' site in Essex and would result in the showpeople having to leave.

Mr Lansley, MP for South West Cambridgeshire, urged the council not to "renege" on the expectations of the showpeople, who were told the travellers' site would never be reopened.

He said: "It cannot make sense for travellers to be moved in opposite the showpeople."

He added there were "compelling reasons" for the closure of Mettle Hill, "including repeated damage to the site itself".

Mark Howell, the council's cabinet member for housing, said if approval was given to the proposal it would work closely with residents to "ensure it is of the highest quality, and delivered in the best way for everyone living nearby".

If the plans are supported at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, they will then be voted on at a full council meeting on 22 November.

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