PEOPLE in East Dorset are stepping up their fight against what they fear will be “the next Dale Farm”.

Hundreds of concerned residents have joined a protest group against proposals to create a gypsy and traveller site at Cannon Hill, in Uddens Drive, described as their “only triangle of woodland” after learning that Dorset County Council has been promised £1.75 million in funding.

They are also angry over news that council officers applied for government funding to put 25 pitches on the Forestry Commission-owned land last April.

A public consultation on a list of proposed sites across Dorset runs until Friday.

Dorset, District and Parish Councillor Janet Dover who has made a formal complaint, said: “This is about the process going on behind closed doors.

“Residents are going through the consultation in the full belief that what they say counts. They will now be left with the perception that it does not.”

A spokesman for the council said the money would only be handed over if it secures planning permission, and it will not apply until the results of the consultation had been analysed.

More than 60 unauthorised encampments have cropped up in the last five or six years, and without authorised sites this will continue, he added.

Janet Healy, from the Friends of Uddens Woodland at Stapehill group, said: “We feel like it’s all been done and dusted.

“But we are not going to give up.

“We’re going to get ready and organised for Round two.”

The campaigners counted 180 walkers using the site one Sunday last month, and argue that neither residents nor travellers will feel safe.

Residents from Colehill, Stapehill, Ferndown and Longham, use the six-hectare plot off the A31, they say.

It is criss-crossed by paths and part of the Castleman trailway.

Last year’s evictions at Dale Farm in Essex, after a 10-year battle over illegal encampment, have added to their worries that a site could grow. Mrs Healy added: “There’s just a lot of concern that East Dorset will host the next Dale Farm.

“We don’t think this would be just one site – we think it will take up more room than the councils have considered and are terrified that it could overspill.”

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