A CONSORTIUM of worried residents near Alresford has forked out around £250,000 to flush a travellers’ site from its village.

More than two-dozen householders have bought a Ropley field that had two caravans and hard-standing installed on it without permission shortly before Christmas.

Its then owner, Mr J Hughes, was intending to get planning authorisation to put three caravans and stables on the plot off Gascoigne Lane.

But 29 nearby householders, fearing a permanent travellers’ site, clubbed together to buy him out. It represents a massive profit of around £100,000 for Mr Hughes, who only bought the field last December.

One Gascoigne Lane resident involved in the buyout, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The whole village feels a sense of relief that this unauthorised development has not been allowed to go ahead.

“Not only would it have impacted on Gascoigne Lane but the whole of village life, we believe.”

Cllr Chris Graham, who represents Ropley on East Hampshire District Council (EHDC), said: “Residents have gone through heartache, it’s been a particularly stressful time and in the end they purchased the field. But presumably they did want it and they have gone to some expense.

“I think the residents are happy the situation is resolved, but I’m not happy it’s had to be done.

“There should be something in the process stopping this in the first place.”

Cllr Graham said the problem had arisen because the district council had not provided enough sites for gypsies, going against Whitehall guidelines. He said the authority was working hard to have two or three sites up-andrunning by the end of the year.

George Brown, new chairman of Ropley Parish Council, said: “We are very relieved that the situation has gone away because it did undoubtedly cause us lots of problems.

“It was unauthorised but it was clear the district council was going to struggle to enforce the rules and regulations because of other national guidelines.

“It was certainly going to be divisive and protracted. The parish council decided on its position that we would be opposing it and we were prepared to fight it.”

Cllr Brown said other landowners were now more aware of what could happen if they sell their land to bidders they know little about.

He said Ropley Parish Council would look at ways of stopping it happening again.

Villagers said Tom Hough, of Gilbert Street Farm, sold the 13 acres of agricultural land for a reported £150,000 in December.

When a mobile home, caravan and septic tank were installed shortly afterwards, residents raised the alarm with around 100 attending a swiftly-arranged parish meeting.

Matthew Green, of Green Planning Solutions, representing Mr Hughes, had told the Hampshire Chronicle he was confident of getting planning permission because East Hampshire District Council had a shortfall of travellers’ sites.

Mr Hughes submitted a planning application on March 15 to put three caravans on the site. It prompted 570 objections to EHDC. Following the buyout the plans have been withdrawn and the field vacated.

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