Call to axe Plans for new trav­ellers sites

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By KATIE CAM­PLING­pling@pe­ter­bor­oughto­

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.”

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