Residents in a quiet village are “up in arms” after a gypsy caravan site appeared in a nearby Green Belt field without planning permission. 

People living in Asheridge, near Chesham in the heart of the Chilterns AONB, say they are “furious and dismayed” that two caravans and a mobile home have popped up at Bramley Apple Paddocks on Asheridge Road.

A retrospective planning application to change the use of the land to a residential caravan site for two gypsy families has now been submitted to Chiltern District Council, but more than 30 upset residents poured into a meeting of Chartridge Parish Council last week to voice their concerns that if they were allowed to stay, it would set a “dangerous” precedent.

The application says the two Romany Gypsy families, which includes a married couple and their five children, were living in “unsuitable and over-crowded” accommodation but “continue to live a nomadic habit of life”.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said the narrow Asheridge Road was “blocked by a group of eight to ten travellers” over the August Bank Holiday weekend as they “bulldozed formerly picturesque land, installed tonnes of hard-standing material and moved in the vehicles.”

Another added: “This should remain a grazing paddock and there is no valid reason why it should be granted residential status. The site sits at the top of a steep, narrow hill and access in and out would be dangerous.

“I would ask you to consider the fact that if permission is granted, the outcome of the precedent it would set on AONB could be catastrophic. These areas need our protection.” 

Cllr Peter Jones, who represents Ballinger, South Heath and Chartridge on Chiltern District Council, was at the meeting along with fellow councillor Nick Rose.

Responding to residents’ concerns, he said: “We totally understand where you are coming from, it is annoying to the nth degree that people can break the law in this way. We will do all that we can about this but sadly the law is not always on our side.”

Cllr Rose has requested that the application be called in by the council’s planning committee because of “widespread community concern”.

In a statement submitted with the planning application, the applicant's agents said development would be confined to the southern part of the site, while the rest would remain as grass paddocks, agreeing that the caravan site would “not cause unacceptable harm to the character” of the area.

They added: “These households have a personal need for accommodation in the Chesham area, where they can gain access to adequate healthcare and to regular schooling for the three youngest children.”