Traveller site plans on the back burner

New government abolish targets

CAMPAIGNERS have given a cautious welcome to the news that plans for new gipsy and traveller sites have been put on the back burner.

South Cambridgeshire District Council had been asked to accommodate 88 extra pitches under targets set by the previous government.

Sites identified in consultation included land at Spring Lane, Bassingbourn, and Old North Road, Whaddon.

But the new coalition government has now scrapped the targets, and it is thought it will be down to local authorities to decide how many pitches are provided, and where they will be located.

Mike Reeve, who is part of a group of Bassingbourn residents who campaigned against using the Spring Lane site, said: “We’re not popping the champagne corks yet, but it’s fair to say it’s on ice.

“This appears to be a step in the right direction.

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“The council will meet to discuss the issue in July, and we will continue to press it to remove the Bassingbourn site altogether. There is 99 per cent opposition to it in the area.”

The campaign group argues that as Bassingbourn is not on a gipsy/traveller route people would not want to live on a site in the village.

More than 500 residents joined a protest walk last year to express their opposition to the plans.

“There is no point putting people somewhere they don’t want to be,” said Mr Reeve.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the Spring Lane site.”

A spokesman for South Cambridgeshire District Council said: “The new Government proposes to introduce radical changes to the planning system in the UK to give local communities greater say in planning decisions that will affect their local areas.

“This has already begun with the proposed abolition of regional plans, which have included housing targets for every district in the country.

“Those targets previously agreed by the Secretary of State will now be determined locally by the district council in consultation with stakeholders and local communities.

“The Government has promised to produce best practice guidance on how to go about conducting a professional assessment of housing need.

“The abolition of centrally determined targets includes the abolition of targets for gypsy and traveller pitches which will also be set locally and reflect local need and historic demand.

“Like the new Government, South Cambridgeshire District Council believes in social responsibility and treating all of its residents equally.

“We have been working on a plan that will see new sites being made available for our growing gipsy and traveller community.

“That work will now progress more slowly while we wait for the new Government to produce its guidance on how we should plan for the needs of our gipsies and travellers.”