A group of Swanley residents and councillors fear the town could be surrounded by new gypsy pitches under proposals announced by Sevenoaks District Council.

The authority proposes to site 20 extra permanent pitches in and around Swanley by 2026 with sites in Crockenhill, Hextable, Farningham and West Kingsdown under consideration.

This would involve adding seven entirely new permanent pitches, and making 13 existing temporary ones into permanent dwellings.

Sevenoaks has suggested 13 possible sites for 71 new pitches as part of a public consultation into its Gypsy and Traveller Plan.

Bob Alexander lives in Pinks Hill near a temporary site at Robertsons Nursery in Goldsel Road just outside Crockenhill which would become permanent under the plans.

He said: "It should be noted of the 13 proposed site options, five are situated virtually on the doorstep of Swanley - Crockenhill, Farningham, Hextable and Swanley itself.

"Being cynical, why am I getting the feeling that Sevenoaks District Council is a bit NIMBY about these sites when the nearest one to them is at Shoreham?

"No site in Sevenoaks? Are we to believe there are no open spaces in closer proximity to Sevenoaks itself for a travellers’ site?"

The council proposes to make the existing temporary pitch at the Robertsons Nursery site into a permanent one.

A pitch should be capable of accommodating one family and should have room for a trailer caravan, a touring caravan, a small amenity building, a small garden and parking for two vehicles.

Swanley town councillor for Christchurch ward, Victor Southern, has registered his strong opposition to the plans in a letter to Sevenoaks District Council.

He told News Shopper: "They are being ridiculously protective of Sevenoaks as though they are a much better class of people and having a gypsy encampment near Sevenoaks would destroy property values.

"My objection is to them putting more of these in Swanley and Hextable on the basis we already have a preponderance of them.

"I can’t see any reason whatsoever why they can’t site them in Sevenoaks.

"Swanley doesn’t have a lot of empty space - it is the most jam-packed part of the Sevenoaks constituency."

Labour representative for St Mary’s ward, Coun Mark Fittock, added: "My concern is that we seem to be surrounding Swanley with gypsy sites which were formerly unauthorised but are now going to be given permanent status.

"These individual one or two caravans probably won’t make that much difference to the town but our experience is that when sites are allowed, they either get retrospective planning permission for more pitches or by default they get an extension of their size so they just increase and increase."

Sevenoaks District Council stressed the sites are only suggested ones as part of a target to establish 72 additional pitches by 2026, which the authority is required to do by law.

The other six sites the council has earmarked for expansion are in Ash, Edenbridge, Farningham, Halstead and Shoreham.

A council spokesman said: “The proposed gypsy/traveller pitches have been put forward by the landowners, as part of previous calls for sites, or are existing temporary sites and are located in nine towns and villages spread across the entire district.

“Should more landowners come forward with additional sites anywhere in the district we would be happy to consider them.”

See the full list of sites here

To comment on the draft Gypsy and Traveller Plan - available online at planningconsult.sevenoaks.gov.uk - e-mail planning.policy@sevenoaks.gov.uk or write to Planning Policy Team, Sevenoaks District Council, Argyle Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 1HG

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