Travellers will remain living on greenbelt land in Hersham for another five years after councillors granted temporary planning permission.

The group of travellers, who live in Pleasant Place adjacent to Burhill Infants School, applied to Elmbridge Council for permission to use the site permanently after their five-year usage expired last month.

Despite a planning officer’s recommendation to permit the application, councillors said the concerns of residents and the use of the greenbelt were too great to allow it permanently.

The land, owned by the travellers, has been occupied since October 2005 and, after a series of refusals, enforcement notices and planning appeals, temporary permission for five years was granted in 2009.

Leader of the council, Councillor John O’Reilly, said the past nine years dealing with the site had been a "ghastly mess" and that permanent use of the site should be turned down.

But Coun O’Reilly said he was concerned if the application was refused, it would be successfully overturned at appeal and argued temporary permission should be considered.

He said: "The application itself asks to have permanent permission; we have to turn this down. The officers have said temporary permission is something we need to consider.

"Broadly, we are in the same place as we were in 2009."

Hersham South councillor John Sheldon said the site had been "possibly the most important issue in Hersham for many, many years", but residents were afraid to speak out.

In a letter to councillors, one resident said: "We did not object to this application during the consultation period as we did not want our name and address to be publicly available along with our objections."

Hersham North councillor Roy Green said: "People fear the reprisals if they publish their name and address or come and sit in the public gallery. This sort of thing should not be going on.

"The feeling in Hersham is people have had enough and they don’t want to put up with it anymore."

The committee agreed to permit the application on a temporary basis for five years, with one councillor voting to refuse the application, with the view that a permanent traveller site will be created in the borough within this time.

Councillor O’Reilly said: "I believe that five years should be and must be sufficient time for this council to identify other sites."