‘More questions’ over cost of Bath traveller site

Further questions have arisen over the cost to local tax-payers of building a gypsy and traveller site on the Lower Bristol Road in Bath.

The price tag for the controversial project has been put in the spotlight once following a decision by Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee to give permission for the plans to go ahead last Wednesday, 4th June.

Confusion had already surrounded the cost of building the 13-plot traveller site, with the Liberal Democrat-run Council previously claiming the total cost would be no more than £1.8 million, despite putting aside a sum of up to £2.45 million in the budget for the project.  A £750,000 contribution towards the cost has also been provisionally agreed by the Homes and Communities Agency.

However, it has now emerged that as part of the planning conditions for the site B&NES is likely to have to pay £153,000 towards the cost of providing additional green space and allotment provision off-site within the area.

In addition, the Council has agreed to construct a large acoustic fence around the site to minimise noise for residents, as well as fork out for highway alterations to allow better access to the site.  During the Planning Committee meeting it was also revealed that the Council is likely to have to pay the cost of diverting a large water main which currently runs underneath the site, the cost of which is yet unknown.

Conservative councillors are pressing the Liberal Democrat-run authority to clarify whether all these additional requirements arising from the planning permission were already factored into the project’s original budget or if they will now add to the final cost.

Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, Cllr Liz Richardson, said:

“The Council really needs to come clean about what the total cost of this project will ultimately be.  There has already been a huge amount of confusion over the actual price tag for this project, with the Lib Dems at one point saying the cost would be £1.8 million, but then putting £2.45 million into the budget.

“We already know that the amount B&NES is planning to spend on this traveller site is anything up to three times the national average per pitch. 

“But we now need to know whether the additional costs arising from the planning permission will add to this total or if they were already factored in. 

“The Council rightly has a duty to try and identify appropriate places for traveller sites, but it also has a duty to spend taxpayers’ money wisely, particularly at a time when large cutbacks are being made to many of its services.  Many residents have already raised deep concerns over the high price of this project, the least B&NES can do is keep a lid on the costs.”