Travellers living alongside a busy motorway have been told they can stay on because a council has nowhere else to put them.
The 22-strong community, camped in eight caravans next to the M55 on land at Bartle near Preston, has won permission to remain for the next two years despite strong objections from residents.
The news has come as a huge blow to locals who claim that the travellers have caused numerous problems since arriving on Rosemary Lane in 2011.
Members of the city’s planning committee, who refuse to allow a permanent site on the land, admitted they had little option but to agree to extending their “temporary” stay because at present Preston doesn’t have enough spaces on authorised sites to accommodate them – and it could be two more years before they do.
Paul Entwistle, chairman of the Woodplumpton Parish Council, told the committee: “This site is totally unacceptable for temporary or permanent residence. It creates a number of hazards for people living in this area. There has been a total lack of integration by these residents over the last three years, there has been local pollution, injuries to farm animals caused by roaming dogs and incidents of harrassment of local people. No-one should be living in such close proximity to a motorway.”
The travellers overturned a council decision to refuse them planning permission for their site in January 2011 on appeal. They were allowed a three-year stay, which expired this year. Now they have a further two years while Preston, South Ribble and Chorley councils work together to provide more permanent pitches.
Coun David Borrow said: “We seem to be getting pushed into doing something we know is wrong because we don’t have enough pitches. It is the wrong site in the wrong place, but we would be wasting our time refusing this.”
Coun John Browne said the access to the site from Rosemary Lane was a traffic hazard. But he added: “There have been 67 objections to this application and we are back to that old problem of ‘We don’t want these people living near us.’ I think it is my duty to support a minority. I can’t go hounding people out of an area when there is nowhere else for them to go.”