Plan to make Devon beauty spot UK's first official New Age traveller site
A Devon beauty spot could become home to the country's first official New Age traveller site.
Controversial plans have been unveiled to legalise the traveller encampment and build a large new woodland site at Haldon Forest, near Exeter.
The two-acre area of land, within the parish of Kenn, could become the permanent dwelling for 15 traveller families.
The site, which is an Area of Great Landscape Value and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, would include concrete pitches, amenity buildings, a health centre, a play area for children, parking for visitors and a new road.
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Social housing provider Teign Housing has been given a grant of £1.15 million for the site.
But no planning application has so far been submitted to Teignbridge District Council.
In 2001 the travellers created a temporary camp in a picnic area of the forest, but were never moved on by authorities despite public concern.
The camp, which has no running water and no electricity or sanitation, already houses more than 25 families.
Nearby residents have expressed concerns about the build in the popular area, which attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year.
Dudley Swain, chairman of Dunchideock parish council, said he had "mixed feelings" about the proposals.
He said: "The travellers are living in terrible, astounding conditions – something needs to be done. They've put it into the melting pot. But is this the right kind of thing for Haldon Forest? I, along with many other residents, am worried."
John May, chairman of Ashton Parish Council, said: "There is a worry that not only will we see overspill and 'Haldon 2' emerging, but that many will see this as a green light to do the same thing. In effect, it rewards those who break the rules."
Howard Milton, chairman of Kenn Parish Council, said:
"We have an opportunity to regenerate the existing site, provide low-impact, environmentally friendly homes for the travellers, make sure the area is pleasant and available to the local communities and we can achieve all this by using Government money."
The Reverend Roger Redding, chairman of South West Alliance of Nomads, said: "Authorities spend more money evicting travellers from inappropriate places than building new sites."
He added: "Many of the fears about travellers are unfounded. They live separate lives out of sight and mind."
The £100,000 application cost would be shared by Teignbridge District Council, Devon County Council, and Teign Housing.
A District Council spokesman said: "We have never shied away from trying to resolve this very sensitive but complex issue."