Victory for village after Mettle Hill travellers’ site scheme scrapped

CONTROVERSIAL plans to reopen a gipsy and traveller site have been withdrawn, leaving the way clear for a parish council to purchase the land instead.

South Cambridgeshire District Council confirmed on Friday that it had ended it’s bid for the Mettle Hill site, on Kneesworth Road, Meldreth, because of a rival offer from Meldreth Parish Council.

Mettle Hill is currently owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, and the district council had planned to purchase the land and reopen the site to help accommodate the 20 extra pitches required in the district by 2031.

When the news was announced last month it was met with considerable opposition from residents, including the travelling showmen who live next to the site.

Cllr Susan van de Ven, Meldreth’s county councillor, said: “It says a lot about Meldreth as a community that people in the village have worked in such a professional and considered way after receiving the news about the possible reopening of Mettle Hill, which came as a bolt from the blue.

“The district council had such a poorly considered case. Any local authority has a duty to conduct it’s decision-making very carefully and unfortunately I don’t think that’s happened in this case.”

Cllr Mark Howell, the district council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We still believe the site was a viable option to meet our future legal obligations for travellers, but the parish council has put in a rival bid at the market value and it would be completely wrong and a terrible use of public money if we were to pay over the odds and enter into a bidding war.

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“If the parish council decides to pull out we will re-enter into negotiations.”

Meldreth Parish Council has secured a loan to help purchase the land, and will consult with residents about how they would like to see it used.

Andrew Lansley, MP for South Cambridgeshire, also welcomed the news.

He said: “I believe that Meldreth Parish Council are best placed to decide on a future for the Mettle Hill site. For a decade now, I have been asking the Cambridgeshire County Council to consider a sale of the land to the parish council, so I am pleased that this will now go ahead.

“I will also work together with the district council to strengthen their ability to make decisions about the local need for travellers’ sites, without these decisions being continually second-guessed by the planning inspectorate.”