Council approves traveller sites

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a possible 14 traveller pitches in Comet country have been approved by the cabinet of Central Bedfordshire Council.

A meeting was held on Tuesday, in Shefford, where the proposal was approved, following a report which outlined potential sites.

It will now be considered by an independent planning inspector.

The cabinet has approved 10 plots near Hitchin Road, Arlesey, but has said that an additional four pitches may have to be found on council-owned land.

Hugh Harper, Arlesey’s mayor, said: “We will still oppose it even though it has been approved by the council. We will still take it to the inspector and oppose the plans which have been proposed.

“We agreed on four sites, this is going back a couple of years, but we will oppose any additional sites.

“I really hope they don’t put any more on in Arlesey, they would really be putting the boot in if they did that.

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“I mean the thing is they have got other sites throughout the district which they can use.”

Campaign Travellers, a local pressure group, has been opposing plans to place sites on council-owned land near Derwent Lower School, in Henlow.

The group has claimed that the sites have been “re-introduced by stealth”.

Central Bedfordshire Council has increased the total number of pitches suggested for the region from 26 to 27.

Traveller sites have been approved at Magpie Farm, Upper Caldecote (six plots in total) and Barton Road, Pulloxhill (eight plots) as well as two plots in Westoning Road in Greenfield.

Councillor Tom Nicols, portfolio holder for sustainable development at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “In order to meet the known local need for gipsy and traveller pitches in the area we have increased the number proposed by the overview and scrutiny committee from 26 to 27.

“I have also amended the original proposal for Oak Tree Nursery and Magpie Farm as I believe that allowing six pitches on this site would be disproportionate in relation to the rest of Upper Caldecote.

“As a result we do have a shortfall of four pitches, but we will widen our location search before proposing any further sites.

“The council has local targets that it has to achieve and it is important that we hear the views of residents before any final decision is made.”