Concerns raised over Council’s Gypsy and Traveller Site plan

Conservative Councillors in Bath and North east Somerset have raised a number of concerns over the authority’s plan to find 42 Gypsy and Traveller pitches in the district.

As part of its Core Strategy development blueprint, B&NES Council has agreed to find sites for twenty-two permanent pitches and twenty transit pitches for Gypsies and Travellers, as well as one yard for travelling Showpeople.

The Council’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet has launched a consultation, running until the 16th January, on the plans and has started a search for potential Gypsy and Traveller site locations.

The consultation plans were debated by councillors at a Full Council meeting last Thursday. At the meeting, Conservative councillors voiced concerns about the feasibility of finding that number of locations, as well as the proposed size and requirements for each Gypsy and Traveller pitch.

The current consultation states that to meet Government guidelines, published in 2008, each pitch must be capable of accommodating one Gypsy or Traveller family, and that the pitch should be large enough to have room for a large touring caravan and trailer, a small garden, space for two cars, a shed, and an amenity/day building. The amenity/day building would consist of a kitchen, toilet room, and living/dining area.

Conservatives have warned that if all this were to be accommodated, the amount of land required for each pitch could house two or even three new affordable homes.

Cllr Les Kew, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, commented:

“The council is obliged by Government to look for locations which could be used to house Gypsy and Traveller families. However, Conservative councillors have several concerns about the council’s current plans.

“We know from previous searches for Gypsy and Traveller sites that it is going to be very difficult to find suitable locations. It is therefore vital that if any potential sites do come forward from this consultation then the nearby community must fully consulted and engaged before any final decisions are taken. In rural areas, Parish Councils should be engaged at an early stage.

“I also think that residents would be very concerned by what is currently proposed to be accommodated at each Gypsy or Traveller pitch. If each pitch is to accommodate a day building with kitchen, dining space and bathroom, as well as room for two cars, a caravan and trailer, then this could be enough land to build two or three new affordable homes, which is of great importance when we have thousands of people on our housing waiting list. This would surely be too much for one pitch when the council is trying to prioritise more affordable housing. Furthermore, the future management of the sites and the environmental impact of any sites would need to be carefully considered and monitored.”