Gipsy sites revised

Controversial plans for 40 new gipsy sites in a district are being reassessed after powers to determine numbers was devolved to local councils.

Central Beds Council is looking again at how many gipsy and traveller sites are needed in the authority after centrally determined figures were scrapped by the new coalition Government this week.

The councillor responsible for sustainable development at the council said the revocation of the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy would probably mean “a lower number of pitches” in the district.

Cllr Tom Nicols said: “We carried out extensive consultation into 40 new gipsy and traveller pitches to be in place across Central Bedfordshire by 2016. This requirement was set out under the East of England Regional Assembly plan which has now been set aside by the new Government.

“We now have to make a provision for local need only and are awaiting the result of our local gipsy and traveller needs assessment before matching the current consultation exercise with the revised requirement. This is likely to be a lower number of pitches but will include some of the sites already identified in the consultation exercise.”

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But Sarah Smith who set up protest group Campaign Travellers which has gathered hundreds of signatures against the proposed sites, said she was disappointed the council had not put a stop to the process altogether.

“We had hoped with the scrapping of the Regional Spatial Strategy that this would filter down to the councils and that the consultation process would be scrapped. Unfortunately this has not been the case and CBC is continuing with the process until they are told otherwise. This is obviously a concern especially now as the �9m budget has since been scrapped, which raises the question of where the funds for the proposed sites is now coming from.”

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A spokesman for Stevenage Borough Council said the announcement does not change things for the authority. “We will continue to plan for an appropriate level of provision that meets the identified needs of the gipsy and traveller community through our Local Development Framework,” he said.

North Herts District Council was required to create 28 pitches by 2021 but will now review that figure.

“Now that the decision-making powers have been handed back to local authorities to determine how many additional pitches are needed, we will have to assess the local need and historical demand before we set revised targets,” said Cllr Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning and transport.

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