RESIDENTS are up in arms that land they had been told was protected could be used as a travellers' site.

The people in Lindisfarne, Woodshaw, Wootton Bassett, whose gardens back on to the site, called a public meeting this week over fears that a gipsy camp will be set there up by 2011.

The plans came to light last week when North Wiltshire District Council met to discuss potential sites for traveller camps in Wootton Bassett, Calne and Chippenham.

The council has been given £250,000 by the Government to develop a site with 28 pitches.

The residents argued that an offer for them to buy the site three years ago was withdrawn when great crested newts were found living there.

Penny Ingham, whose loft bedroom looks out onto the land, said: "The council told us that because of the newts they couldn't sell the land to us but would keep it as a conservation area instead. We were happy to let that happen because we were just going to extend our gardens. As long as the land was left untouched, we were satisfied.

"So what I don't understand is why now it is suitable for a gipsy encampment. Have the newts packed their bags and left?"

Lindisfarne residents held an impromptu public meeting outside their homes on Saturday because they felt that they were not fairly represented at the planning meeting last week.

County and District councillor Toby Sturgis attended the two hour meeting in the quiet cul-de-sac.

After the meeting residents decided to call another public meeting on Thursday at the Woodshaw Inn at 7.30pm to inform other residents of the plans.

Coun Sturgis was not at the district council on Thursday because of a conflicting meeting regarding Wiltshire's change to a unitary authority.

Mrs Ingham and husband Richard have lived in the cul-de-sac with their two children since 1994.

Although they have no plans to move they are concerned that the value of their house will plummet if the three-year transformation goes ahead.

Mrs Ingham said: "I felt we were very poorly represented at the meeting on Thursday mostly because of hearing the rumour only 24 hours beforehand."

Neighbour Chris Howe, 34, said: "There's absolutely nothing against the gipsies.

"I'm trying not to go on stereotypes but when it comes to selling a house as soon as people see a gipsy camp behind it they'll run a mile.

"They may be very nice people and we may very well get on like a house on fire but a strip of land overlooked by two storey homes is not suitable for travellers and anyone looking to sell property here will be in for a tough time."