Gypsy site concultation closes

SOUTH Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) is preparing to respond to public consultation over proposals for new gypsy sites in the area.

The authority is drawing to a close its consultation after a period of just over a year – yielding more than 5,000 views from 1,700 people.

The consultation originally had the aim of helping to meet the number of new Gypsy and Traveller pitches set out in the East of England plan.

But the plan was revoked by the coalition government in June, meaning local authorities became responsible for determining the amount of sites in their area.

SCDC will now consider what level of local provision should be planned, having regard to the new Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment that is currently in preparation.

In July 2009, it was announced by SCDC that sites in Bassingbourn, Whaddon and Meldreth were being considered, and in September last year hundreds of residents of Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth staged a march against the plans.

Representations are now being considered by SCDC and will be reported to the authority’s new communities portfolio holder David Bard, in December.

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It has been confirmed though, that many of the comments cannot be published as they “could be interpreted as discriminatory.”

Mr Bard said: “The Council is very much aware of the local interest in this issue from the community, including the gypsy and traveller community, and that the necessary delay in moving the plan forward has led to a prolonged period of uncertainty for everyone concerned.

“As such, wherever possible, I hope to be able reach a decision at my meeting in December on whether specific site options should remain as options for further consideration at the next stage of plan making, or whether any options should be ruled out at this stage as a result of issues raised in the consultation which means that they are no longer considered to be suitable.”

“The Council envisages that there will then be further consultation in 2011 on how we move the plan forward in light of the changes to national and regional planning policy.”

The coalition government has also announced that it intends to produce new guidance on how councils should plan for the needs of Gypsies and Travellers, but this has not been published yet.