Gypsy and traveller site in Copthorne is allowed despite huge opposition

Residents protesting against the application before the committee meeting
Residents protesting against the application before the committee meeting

There were cries of ‘shame on you’ and ‘disgusting’ from the public gallery as Mid Sussex District Council approved a gypsy and traveller site in Copthorne.

Mid Sussex was both applicant and planning authority for the application to change the use of land at Lower Hollow Copse to house a total of 13 pitches across two areas.

Before the planning meeting, in Haywards Heath, protesters gathered outside the council building bearing placards calling for Copthorne to be treated fairly and branding the area’s district plan a ‘sham’.

Mark Kosky, of the Pot Common Protection Association, said: “We feel that it’s unsuitable for a site due to its dangerous nature.

“It’s a very complex issue and we feel that Mid Sussex are not treating the gypsy community fairly nor the local community fairly.

“We fully understand the gypsy requirements and, in fact, support them. But the district plan itself states that they should be in the strategic sites at Burgess Hill and Hassocks.”

There had been plenty of objections to the application, with a 2,500-name petition submitted, as well as more than 380 letters opposing the plan.

Among the concerns were noise levels, the relatively small size of some of the pitches, and the safety of children who would have to cross the A264 to get to school.

A spokesman for Worth Parish Council asked the meeting: “It’s considered dangerous for adults to cross this road. How can it be safe for children to cross it on the way to school?”

Tony Dorey (Con, Copthorne & Worth) sent a written submission to the meeting, as he was unable to attend.

In it he questioned the viability and location of the site, the validity of the application, and the ‘actions and methods that have been adopted to arrive at the submission of this application’.

Mr Dorey listed concerns such as the application being a joint submission between the council and the land owner, but funded and driven by the council; and the fact there would be council-owned and privately-owned plots.

He said that he had been assured by senior officers that they were confident of the legality of the application, but he added that the ‘number and severity’ of issues surrounding it ‘do create the perception among the local residents that something contrived has gone on’.

Chairman Robert Salisbury (Con, Cuckfield) told members: “We are here with clear, open minds and I will not accept anything that looks as though it is slightly biased.”

The application was approved unanimously.