Call to axe Plans for new travellers sites
MP Shailesh Vara has called for plans to create new travellers’ sites in villages near Peterborough to be scrapped.
Mr Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, wants Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) to rethink plans which affect areas in his constituency, including Ramsey, Warboys, Yaxley and Farcet.
A total of 22 suggestions for suitable sites have been put forward to HDC by private and public landowners. A public consultation on those sites will end on July 9.
The East of England Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) – which set out how many homes and travellers’ sites must be built in the region by 2021 – said 46 extra permanent pitches plus 10 transit pitches are needed in Huntingdonshire.
However, the new LibCon Government is scrapping RSS to give more control to local councils. Mr Vara says this means HDC should rethink its travellers’ site plans.
Peterborough City Council has already torn up its plans that were based on the RSS.
Mr Vara said: “Other local authorities have already taken advantage of this change in direction and cancelled their plans. Huntingdonshire District Council should now do the same.”
He is also concerned that Huntingdonshire may absorb travellers’ sites from nearby areas which have scrapped plans made under RSS.
He has written to Leader of HDC, Cllr Ian Bates, urging him to stop the consultation on the 22 current sites and start again, seeking residents’ views on an acceptable number of travellers’ pitches for the district.
On Thursday, 1,500 people attended a meeting at Ramsey Community Centre and voiced concerns about the planned travellers’ sites.
Cllr Peter Reeve, HDC ward member for Ramsey, was at the meeting. He said: “The main concerns expressed were about crime, waste and the price of houses dropping. There’s also concern for the travellers. People came saying travellers don’t particularly want to be on the doorstep of the settled community.
“I am vigorously opposed to the principle of regional planning. I would like to see the plan swept aside and a rethink on it.”
A Farcet resident, who did not wish to be named, said there were fears in her village over the prospect of getting official travellers’ sites.
She said: “It would be dreadful. We have some unofficial sites and we get cars racing up and down and we’ve had vandalism.”
She said not enough consultation had been carried out by HDC, adding: “We are very unhappy with the consultation aspect of it.”
A spokeswoman for HDC said that no firm decisions had been taken on how many travellers’ sites there would be and their exact locations.
She said that, due to the Government’s scrapping of RSS, the number of travellers’ sites required may be reduced.
However, she added that a need for some sites has been identified in Huntingdonshire.
She said: “A need has already been identified for gypsy and traveller accommodation and we are currently consulting on sites which have been put forward as suggestions from landowners which might be potentially suitable. It is not an allocation exercise.
“Provision may be at a much reduced level, but we still have to plan to meet local needs. We feel that it is worthwhile to continue with this local consultation to obtain local views regarding potential appropriateness of the sites that have been identified.
“The information gathered will provide valuable evidence, help us make informed local decisions and will be of value in the future.”