GYPSY traveller Andrew West made an impassioned plea in front of a packed public gallery on behalf of his family at tonight’s meeting of Thurrock Council’s planning committee, calling on the authority to recognise they were “human beings” not terrorists reports The Thurrock Enquirer.
However, councillors rejected a plan for five pitches for Gypsies and Travellers on land to the rear of Malvern Road in Grays.
Before he spoke, the committee heard that 162 letters of objection had been received against the application and a residents’ spokesperson and a ward councillor spoke against it.
Council planning officer Jonathan Keen had told the committee that the application was not perceived by the authority to be acceptable. “It is within the greenbelt, the applicants have put forward their case but they do not outweigh the harm to the greenbelt,” he said.
Ward councillor Rob Gledhill spoke against the application and said: “This is simply a planning application in the green belt that should be rejected. It has not meant any criteria need to meet special circumstances.
“The whole community believe this application should be refused. Our residents in Little Thurrock are against inappropriate development and the loss of their countryside.”
The meeting was then addressed by applicant Mr Andrew West who said: “I am a Romany gypsy. We have owned this land for over ten years. The aim of my life was to come here and I want to bring my family to the modern world., We used to travel but we cannot do that and now I want my family to be educated and settle and I pray you give us a chance. We are not here to kill
“There are 160 people in arms against us. It’s as if we are terrorists. We are human beings.”
However, the committee members unanimously rejected the application. As the many local residents left the Council Chamber, where there was standing room only, a woman who accompanied Mr West addressed the press gallery and shouted: “This is a hate crime. We will not put up with this. Watch what happens now.”