RESIDENTS in a village near York have raised £37,000 to fight plans to allocate land for a travellers’ site.

Dunnington Parish Council says £17,000 of the “fighting fund” has been spent on professional fees to shape its legal response to the proposal for land in Common Lane, which is contained in City of York Council’s draft Local Plan.

It says the balance remains in reserve to maintain opposition to the proposal for a 15-pitch site land near the village sports club but, if it turns out the money is not needed, it will be returned pro-rata to contributors.

Meanwhile, the parish also says it has not yet received any reply to the response it gave to City of York Council last year during a public consultation on the plan.

News of the fighting fund came as York Outer MP Julian Sturdy called for a rethink on the plan in the light of comments from Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis.

The Tory MP said he had called in a Parliamentary debate on gipsy and traveller policy for the Government to reiterate the protections that were afforded to green belts, claiming the council had displayed a “blatant disregard for the green belt” when allocating sites.

He said Mr Lewis had replied saying traveller sites were “‘inappropriate for greenbelt development” and local authorities should strictly limit the development of new such sites in the open countryside.

Mr Sturdy said he hoped the council had listened to and would act upon the Minister’s advice by revising the plan.

But Coun Dave Merrett, Labour Cabinet member for planning, said the Minister’s comments were merely a reiteration of the Government’s position.

He said York would continue to work within all the Government’s planning guidelines, including its requirement for local authorities to ensure fair and equal treatment for travellers, “in a way that facilitates the traditional and nomadic way of life of travellers while respecting the interests of the settled community.”

He added: “It’s a sad comment on Mr Sturdy personally that he ignores the council’s duties on this and makes no positive suggestions about how we can help provide for some of his most disadvantaged constituents in a way that respects the needs of all our communities and families.”