Residents lobby against showmen's planned Thornbury base

RESIDENTS living near fields where a permanent base for travelling showmen is planned lobbied for the scheme to be rejected when councillors visited the site.

Householders in Lower Morton were joined by parish and town leaders in making their case against the proposal for 12 pitches on land west of Pound Mill Business Centre.

The showmen have outgrown current quarters in nearby villagers and want a secure home for their families and fairground equipment.

But opponents say the scale of the development is too great and are worried about its impact on nearby houses, busy Oldbury Lane where access would be provided and the countryside.

They are also concerned about flooding, noise and the use by fairground vehicles of a track that in some parts is only three metres wide.

Councillor Dave Hockey, chairman of the South Gloucestershire Council Development Control West committee, told residents: "We are here to listen and to look. A decision won't be made today but by the full committee, possibly in January."

Planning officer Simon Penketh made assurances that if approved, access to the site would only be from Oldbury Lane and not from the business centre.

Nick Baseley, agent for the applicants, said fairground rides were taken off-site at the start of the season and normally only returned once the season was over, only occasionally going back mid-way through that period.

He said just as homes had to be provided for everyone else, provision had to be made for showmen's families.

He said: "They are cracking people and make cracking neighbours."

Clare Fardell, South Gloucestershire councillor for Thornbury, said although the need for more accommodation was accepted, a facility combining homes and a work base would be better in a town rather than open countryside.

Thornbury town councillor Vincent Costello said the fields were outside the town development boundary and inappropriate for the planned use.

Roger Denton, speaking for local residents, said: "Oldbury Lane has already seen a number of accidents, culminating in at least one death. As recently as last week there was an accident on this road.

"It is firmly believed that if the development proceeds, the amount of vehicles using the road could potentially lead to more accidents and more fatalities.

"If approved, over 100 more vehicles will regularly use this road, often more than once or twice a day, which is already a severe danger."

Mr Denton said the site would be "extremely large" and would dominate the nearest settled community, potentially more than doubling or trebling its size.

He said it would be visible, noisy, detrimental to the environment, affect public footpaths and a nearby conservation area and could lead to more severe flooding.

Oldbury-on-Severn Parish Council vice-chairman, Keith Sullivan, said many of its parishioners used Oldbury Lane, which was "fast and dangerous".

He said: "If approved, this application would exacerbate what is already a severe situation by significantly increasing the number of extremely large vehicles using this access to Oldbury Lane."

Tony England, chairman of Rockhampton Parish Council, said: "Rockhampton is alarmed at these ad hoc and growing incursions into the countryside."

He said more than 50 people and over 100 vehicles and trailers would be at the site and suggested a combined residential and business use could be set aside by developers of new large areas such as Filton airfield, Cribbs Causeway, Harry Stoke or Severnside.

But Edward Henderson, speaking for the showmen, said much of the work on the rides would not be done on the site and he felt the location was ideal.

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