A plan to ease the strain on communities in a national park during Europe’s largest Gypsy and Travellers fair has been recommended for approval, despite concerns it could aggravate tensions further.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park’s planning committee will consider an application to permanently allow a change of use of the 1.45-hectare Scrogg Bank Field, off Cautley Road, near Sedbergh as a temporary site for travellers for up to 21 days a year.
The site would provide a stopping off point for Gypsies and Travellers on their way to and from the annual Appleby Horse Fair in June, which has taken place there for more than 200 years and attracts about 10,000 visitors.
Following last year’s event, residents described its lead up as the worst in memory and Kirkby Stephen county councillor Phil Dew said there had been an increase in fair visitors, many of whom camped along the A685 and that police had just “not been ready” for the influx.
He said: “They just absolutely did what they liked. The police presence number most of the time was maybe three at the most to control hundreds of travellers.”
The planning committee will hear the application site aims to provide a location for Gypsies and Travellers to stop off on their way to and from the fair, helping to prevent unauthorised encampments on private land and to relieve the pressure on the roadside verges and laybys.
Officers said the site would also help to “alleviate any potential conflict that may arise between the settled community and the Gypsies and Travellers”.
The meeting will hear the Gypsy and Traveller representative on the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group for the Appleby Horse Fair said the provision of the field at Scroggs Bank would enable the better management of visitors by restricting the period allowed for camping and by allowing the enforcement of the Traffic Regulation Orders on the verges.
He said providing rubbish skips and portable toilets in a managed environment would make an immediate and difference to the impact on the area, with significant improvements in road safety, littering, sanitation, animal welfare and the use of police resources, and a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour.
The spokesman said: “A refusal would undo a great deal of the effort and good work which has been undertaken by the local community and the local
authority and which has produced the generally positive and inclusive atmosphere which now prevails.”
However, Sedbergh Parish Council has objected to the proposal on the grounds that the application lacks sufficient detail to demonstrate how the site will be managed in terms of capacity, duration of stay, waste, toilets or traffic.
The parish council has also raised concerns that a permanent permission would enshrine the use of the site by Gypsies and Travellers for the long-term.
Park authority officers concluded the impacts of the use of the site could only be satisfactorily mitigated through appropriate site management, which could only be achieved with the commitment and cooperation of public bodies.
They have recommended that the scheme is only given temporary permission for five years and that its occupancy is limited to 21 days per year, between May and June 30.