Fears over gypsy site near tracking station

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The Independent Online
A PLAN to build a gypsy caravan site next to a secret satellite tracking station was approved yesterday despite fears by British Telecom that it could disrupt international telephone links as well as Britain's early warning defence system.

The overnight stopping camp for 20 caravans at Madley, Hereford and Worcester, was given the go-ahead by the county planning committee in the face of fierce opposition from BT as well as local firms and residents.

As the decision was taken, June Pickering, the Liberal Democrat councillor for the Madley area, warned that the county council might face legal action by objectors and said that three companies had already vacated their premises on an adjoining industrial estate because they were worried about the effect on their businesses.

But Gordon Morris, who chairs the county council's gypsy group, said the authority had been urged to proceed with the scheme by John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment. He added that the site would not cause any problems because it would be properly managed.

BT protested to the county council because it feared that children and adults using the campsite might break into its tracking station only half a mile away and cause damage. It was also concerned that subversives might use the site as cover to spy on the secret communications links.

The tracking station is one of the busiest and largest of its kind in the country and, in addition to telephone services and sensitive defence information, handles video links and computer data for international companies and finance houses. Its other traffic includes the BBC World Service and the BSkyB television channel.