A GYPSY caravan site in West Oxfordshire is so overcrowded that it could contribute to the spread of Covid-19 and is a fire hazard, officials have said.

The Paddocks, a traveller site south of Bampton, is in breach of planning regulations because there are too many caravans at most of its pitches.

Earlier this year, a woman died at the site after being left in a hot car for 16 hours following a party attended by ‘up to 400 people’.

Each pitch is meant to have room for ‘one gypsy family’ according to West Oxfordshire District Council – equivalent to three caravans.

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But most of them have between 12 and 15 caravans on them, according to a council staff member.

And while the site is mostly designated for travellers, there are also concerns that there are now too many caravans which are being lived in by ‘non Gypsy residents’.

Concerns about the safety risks at the site were revealed at a West Oxfordshire District Council meeting this week.

The committee heard an update on ‘enforcement issues’ at the traveller site when it met on Monday.

According to a report written by council planning officer Kim Smith, the site’s occupants had been given permission for a series of pitches, each of which could be used by one family with up to three caravans.

But it added: “In recent years a significantly higher number of units have been placed on the land and that a number of them are occupied by non-gypsy residents.”

At the meeting, Ms Smith said many of the plots had between 12 and 15 caravans on them.

Oxford Mail: The Paddocks traveller site, as seen from above. Picture: Google MapsThe Paddocks traveller site, as seen from above. Picture: Google Maps

Picture: Google Maps

Her report added: “Given the close proximity of the caravans there are a number of potential risks in terms of spread of fire, spread of Covid, safety and welfare of children in potentially dangerous living conditions.”

Ms Smith said two of the plots had been given retrospective planning permission, allowing six caravans instead of three to be legally placed on them.

But she added: “I can confirm as I speak that has not been implemented yet.”

Ms Smith said making sure the caravan site was compliant with the law was a ‘big project’ for council staff, who were already dealing with a ‘resource issue’.

The report added that many of the other issues at the site were not likely to be solved by planning officers alone.

There are also human rights issues to consider: the council would not be allowed to make travellers homeless by removing caravans from the site.

To help deal with other problems at the Paddocks, a ‘multi-agency’ approach is now being taken.

Other public bodies involved include Thames Valley Police, the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Oxfordshire County Council’s traveller liaison officer.

These agencies were due to carry out work on the site at the end of October, but because of the second lockdown in England between November 5 and December 2, they were unable to do so.

Instead, work is due to begin in the new year.

In November this year, an inquest at the Oxfordshire Coroners Court revealed the circumstances of a woman’s death at the Paddocks in June.

Inquest: mum died after being left in car following Bampton lockdown party

Donna Smith, from Bampton, was placed in a car in the early hours of June 23 to sleep off the ‘very large volume’ of alcohol she drunk at a large party at the site.

The care worker’s partner checked on her twice the next day – when temperatures reached close to 30C – before discovering she had passed away at about 5.30pm.

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter recorded a conclusion of alcohol-related death.