Garstang caravan park 'won't be for Travellers'

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THE businessman behind plans for a showmen's caravan park on Kepple Lane in Garstang has hit back at claims the site might be used as a base for members of the Travelling community.

In his first public comments since lodging his plans earlier this year, funfair boss Stanley Cubbins rose to his feet at a packed public meeting last week when claims were made about the possibility of itinerant Irish travellers moving onto the Kepple Lane field.

That prospect was raised by a retired senior police officer, who addressed the meeting and claimed he had experience of problems caused by travelling communities while working in East Lancashire.

He said: "In my experience that is a strong possibility.''

But the claim brought an angry response from Mr Cubbins, who had remained silent through the meeting, except to confirm his membership of The Showman's Guild.

Defence

After the retired police officer had asked Wyre planning boss Garry Payne if the police had been approached for their views on the issue, Mr Cubbins stood up and launched his defence.

Mr Cubbins said: "I am amazed at what you are saying, you being an ex-police officer."

He challenged the man to name any Travelling Showman's Guild site where there had been problems caused by the itinerant community or New Age travellers.

The retired police officer, who did not give his name to the meeting, said Mr Cubbins had employed an academic, Dr Colm Power, who had represented Travelling people in the UK, to produce a report commenting on Garstang residents' criticisms of the caravan park plan.

Mr Cubbins replied that Wyre Council had accepted Dr Power's report. He also stressed there was a need to make a distinction between what he called 'Irish tinkers, New Age Travellers and Roma.'

Oppose

He added: "You lump us all together. I vigorously oppose that.''

Mr Cubbins was then asked what steps would be taken to stop Travellers bringing their caravans to his site.

Mr Cubbins replied: "I do not want them. It is as simple as that. I do not want them. You do not want them.''

Another member of the public said he had no faith in Wyre Council's enforcement procedure.

Kepple Lane resident Mrs Lynn Harter asked Mr Cubbins why he was living on the site illegally and why he had put hardcore on the site. Mr Cubbins replied he had done nothing illegal.

Earlier in the public meeting, organised by Garstang Town Council, Wyre planning boss Garry Payne had fielded scores of questions critical of the council's handling of the application.

St Thomas's CE School governors chairman Alan Pearson asked about the duty of the council to look at brownfield rather than greenfield land for such sites - a claim denied by Mr Payne.

Mr Pearson claimed there were uncontaminated brownfield sites in the borough which could be used instead.

Several written questions were read out by the chairman, Garstang mayor Coun Joan Williams, including one from Beryl Bracken, crossing warden at St Thomas's School voicing her concerns about an increase in HGV traffic.

Questions were also asked about the missing objections sent by the town council to Wyre, the widening of the access gate to Mr Cubbins's site, and how the proposed caravan site would fit in with Garstang's "Bloom" town image.

Report

Wyre planners hope to present their report and recommendation on the plans to next month's meeting of the planning committee.

Last time the council considered the plans officers recommended approval, although the actual decision was deferred.

Asked by The Courier this week if the council would say what the recommendation would be this time, a council spokeswoman said: "Not at this stage, but this will be stated on the agenda of the planning committee."