Council shelves plans for gypsy sites

PUBLISHED: 20:24 23 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:47 11 May 2010

Cllr Tony Hunter

Cllr Tony Hunter

PLANS for travellers pitches on rural sites around Royston have been shelved by North Herts District Council. The district council said that in the face of overwhelming opposition from the public, it is now looking to locate its 15 extra pitches on are

PLANS for travellers' pitches on rural sites around Royston have been shelved by North Herts District Council.

The district council said that in the face of "overwhelming" opposition from the public, it is now looking to locate its 15 extra pitches on areas for search to north and west of Stevenage.

New government guidance also suggests that traveller sites should be placed in areas of large scale growth.

This means that the six remaining rural sites identified in last years Scott Wilson report - including two in Barkway and two in Sandon - are no longer being considered.

Cllr Tony Hunter, county councillor for North Herts Rural, said: "We've known all along that these sites are not suitable by the governments own measure.

"None of the suggested areas take into account where the gypsies and travellers want to go and the process has had quite an effect in the villages.

"But there's been a massive response to these proposals, which shows the strength of feeling surrounding this issue," he said.

Indeed, the district council has received more than 3,000 letters about the proposed sites.

Cllr F John Smith, leader of North Herts District Council, said: "This has been an emotive issue for residents and difficult for the council, as we have obligations to the travelling community.

"It was a pity that the governments revised guidance to locate traveller sites nearer to urban areas and in areas of growth, did not come before we started this exercise as it would have saved a lot of trouble," he said.

Residents in Barkway have been campaigning to have the proposed sites in their village removed from the consultation, and presented their case to the district council earlier this year.

Cllr Bob Davidson, from Barkway Parish Council, said: "Our campaign was not against gypsies or travellers, just the sites that were suggested, which were totally unsuitable.

"The district council's hands were tied by the current legislation and planning process.

"They had to discount all places where a site might be possible, before they could actually visit the sites which are truly feasible.

"We're delighted that common sense has prevailed," he said.

A total of 330 new pitches for gypsys and travellers must be provided across the east of England in 2011, with 15 to be located in North Herts.

The Scott Wilson report identified potential locations for these sites, including land near Reed and Ashwell.

However, these were discarded as "unsuitable" earlier this year.

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