‘Traveller sites fight goes on’ vow Conservatives

Conservative councillors have vowed to continue to back local residents in their fight against several locations which have been earmarked as preferred sites for gypsy and traveller pitches by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

The pledge by local Conservative comes after Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors joined forces last week to vote down a Conservative proposal to send the plans back to the drawing board at a special meeting of the Council.

Conservatives have argued that the Council’s consultation process is flawed and that several of the sites on the Council’s current proposed list, including sites within Greenbelt and woodland, do not accord with Government guidelines.  They have urged the Council to call a halt to its plans and come up with a more a suitable list of traveller sites which have less impact on neighbouring communities.

B&NES Conservative Leader Cllr Francine Haeberling said:

“By joining forces to vote down our proposal, Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors are flying the face of common sense and public opinion, and are putting the Council at serious risk of legal challenge.  However, the fight does not end here, and Conservatives will be supporting local residents in their campaign all the way.

“We are not opposed to the Council allocating appropriate sites for authorised traveller pitches, but the Radstock, Stanton Wick and Keynsham sites are particularly unsuitable.  The council should instead be seeking sites which fit with Government guidelines.”

At the Special Council Meeting, held last Monday, Conservative councillor Malcolm Hanney (Chew Valley North) moved a motion which called on the authority to halt its plans and undertake a fresh search for sites which better accords with Government criteria.  However, despite pleas from local residents, the motion failed to be passed after Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors joined forces to outvote the proposals.

Cllr Haeberling added:

“The Conservative motion gave the council a chance to pause, look again at its plans, and come up with something more sensible.  Sooner or later the council will have to go back and restart the process, either by choice or because it has been forced to through legal challenge.  So the earlier the Lib Dems listen the better, otherwise the authority could end up spending large sums of taxpayer money trying to defend an indefensible decision.”