A YOUNG group of showmen and their families have secured their future in the district after winning planning permission for a permanent site near Thornbury, despite residents' fears for the access road where a motorist has already died.
Around 50 representatives of the Western section of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain attended the crunch meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s development control (west) committee on Thursday (March 27) when councillors took several hours to debate the plans.
Showmen spokesman Stephen Rawlings gave an impassioned plea for the green light to be given for 12 pitches on land near Pound Mill in Lower Morton.
He said: “Showmen are very well represented in South Gloucestershire with the largest contingent born and bred anywhere in the country. We are very well received here until it comes to planning permission.
“We provide fairgrounds at events and light switching on ceremonies but when the lights go off we can’t just be packed up too. We need somewhere to live.”
He added: "Our sites are overcrowded to the point they are dangerous. This site is being purchased by our young people, they don’t have a lot of money and are just starting out on married life, but they have gone into debt because they need stability and security in their lives.
“They suffer such hardships so I beg you to give these people a chance. It if for our young people, our future, so our traditions and heritage can carry on in this area.”
The 30 householders of nearby Duckhole received the backing of Thornbury Town Council against the proposal.
Their spokesman, resident Roger Denton, said: “Travelling showmen are not two-headed people but hardworking professionals. However, we feel this site is not suitable for a number of reasons.”
He said visibility splays on Oldbury Lane, where a new access road will be created, were dangerously lacking and the lane itself was not wide enough to take showmen’s equipment and rides.
“Our feeling in the community is that highway safety is non-negotiable despite planning pressures,” said Mr Denton.
A smaller application was refused by the council and again on appeal in 2008. The following year a 22-year-old man died in a head-on collision on Oldbury Lane.
Cllr Claire Fardell (Lib Dem, Thornbury North) said: “It may not be a major route but it is the main road to Oldbury Naite and there are a lot of people rushing to get to and from the power station. It is extremely fast and there are dangerous bends.”
Cllr Maggie Tyrell (Lib Dem, Thornbury South and Alveston)said: “We are often very sympathetic to showmen when it comes to acknowledging their problems but this site is too prominent on the landscape, the road is hazardous and there are flooding issues.”
A proposal to defer a decision to allow for a traffic survey to be carried out failed. Recommending the plans for approval, Cllr Keith Cranney (Con, Stoke Gifford) said: “I fully appreciate what the showmen do here and what they contribute to the local economy and vibrancy and diversity of the whole of South Gloucestershire.”
The plans were passed on a vote of nine in favour and four against.
After shaking residents’ hands, Mr Rawlings told the Gazette he hoped the young showmen would be living on site by November.