CONTROVERSIAL plans for a Traveller site in East Wellow have been permitted, despite residents' threat of legal action. 

The scheme in Embley Lane was originally presented to Test Valley Borough Council's southern area planning committee in June.

Despite it being permitted, local residents sent the council a pre-action protocol letter. The authority decided to bring it back to the committee, on Tuesday, January 30. 

Felix Nolan and Tony Quinn applied for permission for the three pitches, each to contain one mobile home, one utility dayroom and space for one touring caravan.

The council's officers maintained a recommendation to permit it. In the officers' report, it said: “The applicant meets the definition of a Gypsy in the PPTS 2023, there is an identified need for pitches in the borough and the local planning authority is not currently in a position to identify or offer an alternative site for this family to move to.

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“The proposal is in accordance with the policies of the development plans taken as a whole. There are no material considerations which indicate that a decision should be taken other than in accordance with the development plan.”

Nicola Davies spoke on behalf of the residents of Embley Lane. She said: “There are 46 residents living in 26 houses in Embley Lane who all object to this. 

“One of the key issues is to find out if the applicants qualify as Gypsies or Travellers. The area adjacent to the site is woodland, which would be harmed by this application. 

“An irreversible precedent would be set if this application was approved. We ask you to address these concerns before deciding on this.”

The applicants' agent Angus Murdoch said: “In Test Valley, there is an unmet need of 44 pitches, which is double the number when this was presented to the committee in June. 

“There is a lack of suitable alternative pitches. All of the issues have now been solved. The families are now settled on the site. They are respectable and will make meaningful contributions to the community.”

Cllr Nick Adams-King, whose ward includes the site, was unable to attend the meeting. His presentation was read out by the committee's chairman Cllr Mark Cooper. It said: “We have a duty to meet the need for Gypsy sites. We must do all we can to meet that need. However, there is evidence that the applicants are not local. The local Gypsy liaison officer asked the community, and they did not know the applicants. This will set a precedent.”

Cllr Gordon Bailey said: “This application does not meet our relevant policy. There is no justification for it to be located in the borough. We need to refuse this as it stands.”

Cllr John Parker disagreed and said: “We have established that the question of a local connection is not relevant. We know there is a need and that we are short of sites. The planning officers have done a thorough job.”

The committee decided to vote to permit the scheme, with 11 for and two against.