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Swanley Council says 'enough is enough' on new gypsy pitch plans
Swanley Council has declared "enough is enough" in its battle with Sevenoaks District Council over plans to locate new gypsy pitches in the area.
At a meeting of the council on June 4, members voted unanimously to send a statement to Sevenoaks calling on the authority to come up locations which are "neither in Swanley or on any of its borders".
As reported in News Shopper last week, Sevenoaks proposes to site 20 extra permanent pitches at five sites in and around Swanley by 2026 with sites in Crockenhill, Hextable, Farningham and West Kingsdown under consideration.
Swanley Village ward councillor Tony Searles told the meeting: "Residents have been saying to me ‘why are the sites all in the north and in Swanley?’
"Now is the time to say on behalf of the residents of Swanley, enough is enough.
"Please find some sites that are not in Swanley."
Sevenoaks’ proposals would involve adding seven entirely new permanent pitches in and around Swanley and making 13 existing temporary ones into permanent dwellings.
In response to concerns voiced by Coun Mark Fittock that making sites permanent could lead to them expanding further without permission, Coun Jim Halford said: "Let’s look at the Republic of Ireland, which is the most civilised country in the world, and follow their policy.
"If you overstep the mark with your caravan over there it will be moved on within 24 hours.
"Why is it our politicians in Britain are so damn thick that they can’t get the message?"
Sevenoaks has suggested 13 possible sites for 71 new pitches as part of a public consultation into its Gypsy and Traveller Plan.
As the planning authority it retains ultimate control over where the pitches will go, but is required to consult with councils like Swanley.
Sevenoaks is bound by law to find 72 extra pitches in the district by 2026, and is looking at further sites 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."
To comment on the draft Gypsy and Traveller Plan – available online at planningconsult.sevenoaks.gov.uk – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Planning Policy Team, Sevenoaks District Council, Argyle Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 1HG.
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