Concerns have been raised that plans by Bath and North East Somerset Council to create new gypsy and traveller sites in the area do not accord with new Government policy.
Liberal Democrat-run B&NES Council this week published plans for a consultation on proposals to earmark several sites within the area as possible gypsy and traveller pitches.
However, Conservative councillors have raised a number of questions about the proposals and have voiced concerns that some of the sites proposed are within Greenbelt, which the Government has said should not be used for traveller sites.
New Government guidelines, published alongside its new National Planning Policy Framework last month, have removed top-down targets for the number of traveller pitches local authorities have to allocate and is encouraging neighbouring councils to work together to allocate sites. The new Government guidance also states that Traveller sites in the Green Belt are inappropriate development.
Cllr Francine Haeberling, B&NES Conservative Group Leader, said:
“We’re concerned that the Council has rushed out these proposals without taking account of the new Government guidelines published in recent weeks.
“Councils no longer have to abide by top-down Government targets for allocating gypsy and traveller sites, and can instead decide upon local need and work with neighbouring authorities to share the allocation. It appears that B&NES is not looking to work with our neighbouring authorities or review our area’s local needs in light of this.
“Crucially, the Government’s new guidance also explicitly states that traveller sites should be considered inappropriate development in the Greenbelt, so we are very surprised that the B&NES proposals include Greenbelt sites.
“Clearly the Council needs to search for traveller sites in order to protect against unauthorised pitches. This is something which all political parties have struggled to do since B&NES was created in 1996. However, if the allocation process is botched, or residents do not feel they are given a proper say, this could cause greater difficulty for the authority.”
Conservatives have also questioned how much each traveller pitch will cost, who will be expected to pay for the pitches, and how much Council Tax the council expects to collect from each.