Hundreds sign petition calling for Pannal traveller and gypsy site to be scrapped

County Councillor Cliff Trotter
County Councillor Cliff Trotter

Hundreds of Pannal residents have signed a petition urging Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) to scrap plans for a traveller and gypsy site in the area.

The petition was presented to HBC planners yesterday by Pannal Conservatives with more than 350 signatures collected from concerned residents.

Aerial view of Pannal

Aerial view of Pannal

In its Draft Local Plan, HBC has proposed building a gypsy and traveller site in the fields next to Crimple Hall garden centre on the A61 Leeds Road.

The proposal has sparked controversy among residents with more than 200 people voicing their opposition at a public meeting held in Pannal Village Hall.

County councillor Cliff Trotter (Cons, Pannal and Lower Wharfedale) revealed not one voice of support was raised during the meeting as he presented the petition.

He said: “Pannal Conservatives have had an overwhelming response from the residents. Never have we come across such a huge response on a single issue.

“We have concerns over access as the site is situated just off the southerly approach to Harrogate. Roads in this area are already at capacity.

“We have additional concerns as the development will be on land designated as a special landscape area. This will further reduce the green field gap between Pannal and Harrogate.”

There are already two official gypsy and traveller sites across the district; one at Bickerton in Wetherby and another at Thistle Hill in Knaresborough.

However, national planning policy requires that councils must address Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople’s housing needs through identifying suitable sites.

As no other suitable options were put forward during the council’s Call for Sites, HBC have been forced to suggest their own land in Pannal.

Coun Trotter stressed that he was in favour of sites like these being created but said the proposed area in Pannal was “inappropriate”.

He said: “I am aware that the Council are in a difficult position as no suitable sites were suggested last year during the council’s Call for Sites and as a result they are having to use their own land, of which there is quite a bit in Pannal.

“However, Pannal Conservatives are currently having discussions with planning officers and the cabinet as to whether the council would consider using other land or sites that they own in the district.”

Pannal residents have also been sent a survey on the site by their parish council, with more than 98 per cent of those who have responded opposing the proposition.

However, former St Aidan’s student and Pannal resident Lucy-Neely Morgan, 21, said she has been left shocked by the outcry and branded the petition “ridiculous”.

She said: “It’s an embarrassment and a real shame, we have an opportunity to show that we are a welcoming town but at the moment we’re proving ourselves to be just the opposite.

“It would be lovely to see people accepting the site, it was nice to see the article about refugees being welcome in Harrogate and that’s what I wanted to happen with this.

"These people should be able to live here and we have so much to offer them. It’s very hypocritical to complain about Harrogate’s homelessness and high house prices but to moan about this.

“If the petition works and they have to find another area then that would send an awful message. It would show us as a hostile town when I don’t think this is the case.”