A PROPOSAL intended to stop travellers from camping illegally in a village lane has been rejected by residents.

About 200 people packed into Sedgefield Parish Hall to discuss ways of solving the problem of travellers stopping in Beacon Lane on the way to and from Appleby and Yarm fairs.

Residents, backed by Sedgefield Town Council, want the road blocked off, but with a lockable gate to allow access to utilities.

Chris Tunstall, director of environment and technical services at Durham County Council, said that would make the problem worse.

He said closing the lane would only move the travellers elsewhere, possibly on to the village green.

And he said: "As the utility companies prefer their services to run under a public highway so they can access them freely at any time without restriction, it would be a lengthy and prohibitively expensive operation to relocate them."

Suggesting a compromise, Mr Tunstall said: "Our preferred option, which we have outlined to the local councils, is to erect a gate to restrict the travellers' access to the eastern end of the lane, which is closest to the village and nearby homes, and control access to the lane by traffic management measures.

"The west end of Beacon Lane is the area where any problems caused by the travellers can best be contained.

"We believe what we have suggested is a realistic and workable way forward."

But the suggestion was rejected, and one resident, who did not want to be named, said: "There will be no compromise.

"The council's suggestion would almost make it an official place for them to go and we would rather it was left open completely.

"We've come up with an alternative place for them - the laybys that surround the village.

"Close the lane and liaise with the travellers to say these are the areas we've identified. We accept that they're going to be travelling, but do it where they're not having such an impact on our lives and we won't have an impact on their lives."

She said: "Another public meeting will be called in two months' time so the county council can go away and reconsider, to acknowledge the depth of feeling about this. We will not give up."