Panel demands rethink over traveller sites plan

A scrutiny panel of councillors has called on Bath and North East Somerset Council to rethink its plans to allocate up to six locations in the area as gypsy and traveller sites.

At a meeting of the council’s Planning, Transport and Environment scrutiny panel this week it was resolved to ask the authority’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet to call a halt to its plans whilst a new needs assessment of traveller sites in the area was undertaken.


The meeting heard from several members of the public who spoke against the council’s proposed list of sites, including the Chair of Stanton Drew Parish Council, representatives of the Stanton Wick Action Group and the owners of Ellsbridge House in Keynsham.  Concerns were raised over the location of sites within the Greenbelt as well as the fact that several of the sites are in isolated locations and have problems with highway access. Problems with contamination on some sites and the impact on small local communities were also raised.


Conservative members of the panel objected to the list of sites, arguing that the site selection process was flawed, and proposed that the council postpone its planned consultation and reconsider the sites proposed.  Conservative councillors highlighted that the majority of the sites do not accord with Government guidelines, which state that sites should not be within Greenbelt, should have good access to amenities and should not dominate existing settlements.


The motion was carried with three Conservatives voting in favour and three Liberal Democrat councillors voting against, with the panel Chair using her casting vote.


Cllr Malcolm Hanney (Cons, Chew Valley North), sits on the scrutiny panel and seconded the motion.  He said:


“We have serious concerns the council’s site selection process is flawed and its consultation unsound.  The council’s list of proposed traveller sites does not accord with Government guidelines and many have very little chance of gaining planning permission.  The Stanton Wick site in particular appears woefully unsuitable as it is within Greenbelt and its scale would dominate the nearby hamlet.


“These plans are causing unnecessary worry for local communities and so the council should call a halt to its consultation, go back to the drawing board, and take the opportunity to undertake a new needs assessment of traveller sites in B&NES.”


Cllr Marie Longstaff (Keysnham East), who chairs the panel, added:


“We heard some very strong arguments from members of the public who had deep concerns about the council’s proposed traveller sites and its consultation process.  In particular, concerns were raised at the panel that sites have been put forward which are within Greenbelt, have serious problems with highway access and are in isolated locations with no access to local amenities.  Therefore, the panel asked the Cabinet to take to postpone its consultation and take a fresh look at its plans.”


The panel’s motion, moved by Chair of the panel, Cllr Marie Longstaff, resolved to ask the Cabinet to postpone its planned consultation until it has conducted an updated needs assessment and reconsidered the suitability of the sites proposed in light of the concerns raised by the panel.