No rush to judgement on plans for gypsy sites

PUBLISHED: 11:47 01 November 2007 | UPDATED: 15:19 12 May 2010

PROPOSED travellers sites in Buntingford could restrict the development of starter homes in the town, according to a town councillor. The Scott Wilson report, released last month, identifies areas on Baldock Road, Throcking Lane, and Royston Road in Bunt

PROPOSED travellers' sites in Buntingford could restrict the development of starter homes in the town, according to a town councillor.

The Scott Wilson report, released last month, identifies areas on Baldock Road, Throcking Lane, and Royston Road in Buntingford, as well as two plots of land in Sandon, as potential new travellers sites.

Cllr Eunice Woods has voiced concerns that the needs of young people in Buntingford are being ignored.

At a meeting of Buntingford Town Council on Thursday, she said: "There is a big demand for starter homes here, lots of youngsters can not afford to live in the town.

"The report picks on areas of green land which I would like to developed for the future. We need to look after our own."

However, District Councillor Stan Bull told the meeting that no plans have been finalised.

Cllr Bull said: "Nothing is set in tablet stone yet, I suspect we will have to wait until December at the earliest before we know more.

"We don't know for sure how many new pitches we're going to get in East Herts, but we suspect that existing sites will be able to take them. At the moment it's a case of watch this space."

Mayor of Buntingford, Cllr John Noades, said: "We mustn't rush to any conclusions, we need to keep an open mind."

Cllr Noades, together with Cllr Pat Whittaker and Cllr John Ling, have formed a working committee to look at the effect new travellers sites would have on the town.

The Scott Wilson report was commissioned by Herts County Council and local authorities, including North Herts and East Herts district councils. It identifies 21 potential "areas for search" in Herts which could make suitable locations for traveller sites.

A consultation carried out by the East of England Regional Assembly earlier this year concluded that 1,190 additional pitches for travellers must be provided across the region by 2011.

The Assembly will decide how many extra pitches must be provided by local authorities. Once this is established, it will be up to individual authorities to decide where to locate the pitches.

North-east Herts MP Oliver Heald has criticised the proposals as "Ill-thought out and wrong-headed".

In a letter sent to all the town and parish councils in his constituency affected by the report, Mr Heald said he is against the proposals as "they seem to be the wrong way to tackle the accommodation needs of travellers."

He said: "There are traditional traveller routes and if extra accommodation is needed it doesn't make sense to put it where they don't want to go.

"Areas like ours do not have a traveller tradition and it seems wrong to encourage others to take up this particular lifestyle, which is often associated with social exclusion.

"I will continue to oppose new traveller sites in our area. I believe that these proposals are ill-thought out and wrong-headed," he said.

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