A public inquiry into a campsite on green belt in Chorley has heard how gypsies are a ‘valued part of the community’.
Paul Wilkins, of Kings Lea, Adlington, was giving evidence at a three-day inquiry into a site on Hut Lane, Heath Charnock, which is occupied by families of Romany Gypsies.
The Linfoot family is appealing Chorley Council’s decision to refuse retrospective planning permission for caravans, storage units, and stables on the land, which is classed as green belt.
Mr Wilkins said he has known the family of Patty Linfoot for more than 30 years and kept in touch with them through work providing music systems at events across the country.
He said: “I found both the Linfoot and the other families to be nice ones who pay their taxes and are fully committed and working within the local community for the benefit of everyone.
“These families, like me, travelled to find work but always headed back to Chorley and have remained valued members of the community.”
He said he used to socialise with them when they parked in the lorry park on Friday Street, near to the Malt n’ Hops, which he used to own, and also when they would stay in a layby on Euxton Lane.
Paul said: “Over the years the family would be in there quite regularly. If they were asked by the council to move, they would. They would also stay on the playing fields at Adlington for two weeks of the year for Adlington Carnival.”
The inquiry had earlier heard how inspector Mark Dakeyne had received 135 letters of objections from residents over the development, with 109 in support of it.
A similar appeal for the site was turned down in May 2010. Giving evidence at the hearing, Malcolm Allen, owner of Malcolm’s Musicland, said he had also known the families involved for around 30 years, although he was not aware they were gypsies until last year.
He said: “Despite various funds available for a travellers site, nothing has been done.
“House builders are snapping up sites to build on across the borough, and sites travellers have used in the past have been built on.”
The inquiry will resume at Chorley Town Hall’s Lancastrian Suite on Friday.