B&NES traveller site saga branded a ‘shambles’

The search for suitable locations for authorised gypsy and traveller sites by Bath and North East Somerset Council has been branded a ‘shambles’ by opposition Conservative councillors.

The accusation comes after it emerged that three sites which the ruling Liberal Democrats had said were rejected could still yet be considered as potential locations.

At a meeting of the Council’s Planning, Transport and Environment scrutiny committee last Thursday, residents and councillors lined up to criticise the authority’s flawed site selection process.

Residents from Stanton Wick, Radstock and Keynsham pressed the authority’s Lib Dem Cabinet for Homes and Planning, Cllr Tim Ball, to confirm that the three sites proposed for their areas had now been ruled out.  However, despite previous statements by the Liberal Democrats that these sites had been ‘rejected’, Councillor Ball would only reiterate that these sites were ‘highly unlikely’ to form part of the Council’s ‘final plans’, and would not confirm that they would be ruled out at the Cabinet’s September meeting.

In addition the Council also faced criticism for publishing a ‘raw’ list of 27 new possible traveller sites without filtering out sites which could not be delivered, causing further anguish for residents in those areas.

Conservative councillors have slammed the Council’s process as a ‘debacle’ and called on the Liberal Democrat Cabinet to start the process afresh.

Cllr Geoff Ward, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning who also sits on the scrutiny panel, said:

“B&NES seems to determined to turn what is already a shambles into a debacle.  First the Lib Dems put forward sites which are wholly unsuitable, then they say they are withdrawing three of them, then they backtrack on this.  Now the Council has published a list of 27 new locations which have been suggested as possible traveller sites, but with no analysis of their suitability or deliverability.  They have even published sites which are not even available, and they still have sites within Greenbelt.

“Publishing sites which are complete non-starters, without any assessment of their viability, will simply cause further undue alarm amongst local residents.  The Lib Dems should accept that they have messed up this whole process from the beginning, call a pause to the plans and restart the process in a proper manner.  Otherwise the Council is continuing to waste more time and money on a flawed process.”