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Planners asked to consider the personal story behind retrospective application for Gypsy site at Shannon Falls, Tolney Lane, Newark

The traditional Traveller way of life of roaming the roadside is at and end, according to one family who are pleading for planning permission to settle at Tolney Lane, Newark.

Applicant Ernest Smith spoke to the Advertiser ahead of a meeting of Newark and Sherwood District Council's planning committee tonight where plans are due to be discussed to use part of Shannon Falls as a Gypsy and Travellers' site, with amenity blocks and associated works for a three-year period. The application is recommended for refusal due to severe flooding risk.

Roofing and building contractor Mr Smith, who has bought plots 11 and 12 of the 13-plot Shannon Falls. said: "I'm looking for a home. From the day I was born, I have travelled from site to site, from lay-by to lay-by to football field to carpark to abandoned piece of land.

Retrospective premission is sought for the site. (54892961)
Retrospective premission is sought for the site. (54892961)

"I don't want my children to live with the same problems that I grew up with. It's not safe. People throw bricks at our caravans or shout abuse at us when they leave the pub drunk. It's no kind of life. I don't want them growing up on wastelands; for the police to be coming down every five minutes.

"I'm currently residing on the Castle View site on Tolney Lane, which is a large Gypsy caravan park but we're temporary there, allowed three months, and if we pull off the site, our pitch isn't guaranteed to be there when we come back because there's a waiting list.

Shannon Falls. (54892964)
Shannon Falls. (54892964)

"We have family connections to Tolney Lane.

"My children are in school, are registered with a dentist.

"I want somewhere to call home. I'm sick of being moved.

Shannon Falls, Tolney Lane. (54892963)
Shannon Falls, Tolney Lane. (54892963)

"I'm not looking to build a massive mansion or even a bungalow, just a little outbuilding with a toilet, a shower, somewhere to do the washing. Somewhere where I can close the gates and my child can play on their bike, where I can put up a swing for my grandkids one day.

"I haven't 70 feral kids — I have three good children. Not every council estate has resident drug dealers and not everyone walks around in baggy trousers in the same way that not every Traveller is bad.

An existing caravan site on Tolney Lane.
An existing caravan site on Tolney Lane.

"I want the same crack of the whip as everyone else. You can be Tyson Fury, champion of the world, and you still don't get a decent crack of the whip if you're from our culture."

Mr Smith said he was only asking for the bare necessities that most people in the UK take for granted.

A view of Tolney Lane where much development of permanent brick-built houses and bungalows has taken place. (54893884)
A view of Tolney Lane where much development of permanent brick-built houses and bungalows has taken place. (54893884)

"I want to have a toilet and a shower. It's our culture not to use the toilet in the caravan as it would be unclean," he said.

"In the pandemic we were having to go to the services ten miles away at Grantham for a shower, until they stopped us because the showers were for truckers and then we were forced to go to the services at Blyth, which is 25 miles.

"In 2021 how can it be right that you don't have a wash basin or that your wife does the dishes in the same sink that you're required to wash in?

Tolney Lane where there are brick-built homes as well as caravans. (54893881)
Tolney Lane where there are brick-built homes as well as caravans. (54893881)

"I want people to be able to ask me 'Ernest, can I have your address so I can send you a letter about that appointment or even for that speeding fine'.

"I have an established, registered business and pay my taxes. I don't have a criminal record. I employ people in the town. I have a squad of men who rely on me.

"I won't sacrifice our culture, or our way of life, but we can hold on to that living in one place. I just get so tired sometimes.

A view of Tolney Lane. (54893882)
A view of Tolney Lane. (54893882)

"I understand how people feel. If you pay £169 to stay at Butlins and we pull up on the verge outside and stay there for free, you're going to be annoyed.

"People often are and then the police come and issue a Section 61 notice and we have five days to move on.

"The council sites have no room and the location is not of your choice.

"For me, it's time to stop all of that. I want to live on my own land, provide somewhere where my children can come and go from and a home for other Travellers who have nowhere to go."

It is recommended that planning permission be refused because "the proposal represents highly vulnerable development that would be located within Flood Zones 3a and 3b (and relying on an access/egress within Flood Zone 3b) and therefore should not be permitted in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and the Planning Practice Guidance."

Planning officers said: "In the opinion of the Local Planning Authority, the proposal would therefore place both the occupants of the site and the wider area at risk from flooding."

Mr Smith said he respected the laws around planning and that having the electric and water connected to his plots was a necessity. He said the land had never flooded and the placing of gravel would mean that water was absorbed rather than pooling.

He said 600 to 700 people living on Tolney Lane could not be wrong and understood better than anyone the flood risks and how not to do anything that would impact their neighbours.

"I have a care for the land and the laws and abide by the rules. If I didn't own my own plot of land I would I would be parked in a truck stop or a carpark and be the bad guy," he said.

The application by Mr Smith and others is a resubmission of one that was refused for the land to be used permanently. Refusal was on flooding fears. The application form describes the site as unused scrubland although it also confirms that works and the change of use commenced on May 1, 2021 and therefore the application is now retrospective as works continue to be undertaken on the site.

Council papers say the western half of Shannon Falls has a temporary permission for eight Gypsy and Traveller pitches, although the site is not formally set out as approved, and it is not clear if this permission has been implemented.

The smaller north-western part of the Shannon Falls site was granted permission in 2018 for a permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitch, which has been completed.

The Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment demonstrates a need for 118 pitches to meet the needs of those who were established to meet the planning definition between 2013-33.

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