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The current situation with this saga is that the Borough identified a site just south of Runkins Corner and near Rapid Electronics on the east side of Severalls Lane. The site is actually in Highwoods but it would obviously be very close to Langham. The Borough granted planning permission for the site in October 2006 and in December 2007 County were given 900,000 by Central Government for the site and County also agreed that the cost of the site had risen from 1M to 2M. The land is owned by the Borough but the site would be built and run by County. The site will contain 12 pitches which will be for travellers who do not want to travel but have a semi-permanent home. (Don't ask!)




Colchester had an authorised gypsy site in the Hythe but over the years this was vandalised by the inhabitants and closed. County had told the Borough that they must either find another gypsy site or reopen the site at the Hythe. The Hythe area was to be redeveloped into a prestige area and so the Borough were desperate to find an alternative site. The Borough tried to identify a suitable site themselves but every site met with local opposition and was rejected. The Borough then employed independent consultants to find a site. They produced a series of questions and the sites with the highest marks were chosen for the short list. The Borough later admitted that they had "assisted" in setting the questions, the weight given to the answers and which sites could not be looked at (ie the Hythe). This certainly gives a new meaning to the phrase "independent" survey! There are those who believe that the Borough had decided where the site should be and devised questions and marks to get the required result.


The initial survey had produced a short list of five sites, all close to Langham and so the decision was "called in" before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in October 2003. The Committee agreed that the selection process was unsatisfactory and referred it to the full Cabinet. Cabinet decided that the consultants should rewrite the questions and redo the selection process. The consultants came back with almost identical questions and so unsurprisingly it produced the same answer. Unfortunately one cannot appeal a second time against a decision and so the decision stood.


Following what was called a consultation period, although the Borough took no notice of the concerns expressed by businesses, councillors or individuals, Cabinet chose the site east of Severalls Lane on September 8th 2004. It was then up to County to produce a planning application and this was lodged just before Christmas 2005. The planning application came before the Planning Committee in October 2006 and those who went were surprised to see that there were a number of replacements, including the chairman, on the Committee. It soon became clear that the replacements were very keen that the application should be passed which it duly was. However to appease the large number of protesters they added two important conditions which were: a) there must be a dedicated manager in attendance on the site "24-7" and b) that the site must be purely residential and that no business can be carried out. It is important that these conditions do not get "forgotten".


Nothing has happened since October 2006 because a condition, which is now also a Central Government advice, was that there should be a 2m wide path along the east side of Severalls Lane. County assumed that they owned the land and so that would not be a problem but in fact the land is owned by a local man who refuses to sell. County said that they could make a path which was 1.95m at its narrowest and this was accepted by the planners but someone who could read a tape measure showed that the width was actually only 1.4m. We await the next step but it could well be a long process!