Gypsy and traveller plan including 10-pitch Fairfield site set to be withdrawn

Aerial view of the site south of Fairfield and west of Stotfold Road.

Aerial view of the site south of Fairfield and west of Stotfold Road. - Credit: Archant

The Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan put forward by Central Bedfordshire Council is set to be withdrawn after it was challenged by a planning inspectorate.

The inspectorate questioned whether the draft plan, which included a 10-pitch site west of Stotfold Road, Fairfield, had held a sufficient consultation and if the approach to measuring and providing for need had been appropriate.

The CBC executive committee unanimously agreed to withdraw the plan at Priory House this afternoon, but the ultimate decision will be made at the full council meeting on September 11.

Councillor Nigel Young, who is responsible for matters related to sustainable communities on the council, said: “We submitted our plan in good faith, believing it to be sound and expecting the examination of it by the inspector to result in it being approved. It appears, however, that we were wrong.

“Despite being further along the process than the overwhelming majority of councils and proposing more pitches than any other, the planning inspector tells us that we haven’t done enough. In view of this, it is with enormous frustration and regret that we have to consider withdrawing our plan.

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“As we reconsider our position and our approach, we can only hope that there is some reflection in Whitehall on whether the existing requirements and inspection model are ever likely to result in plans that can realistically be delivered.

“Our aim has always been to improve social cohesion between the settled and the travelling community.”

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Fairfield Parish Council had voiced its opposition to the plans.

Reacting to the news, chairman Barrie Dack said: “We are not surprised that Central Bedfordshire Council has decided to withdraw their plan.

“The inspector has asked some searching questions from which one can tell he upheld the parish council’s view that their plan was deeply flawed. He picked up our strongly stated contention that access to the site would cause an accident blackspot, as there was insufficient distance from the brow of two hills for vehicles to react.

“It means that CBC has to go back to the drawing board and it remains to be seen whether the Fairfield site remains in their next set of plans. As much as the parish council accepts there is a need for homes to be found for the gypsy and traveller population, this site was totally unsuitable from so many points of view.”

The planning inspectorate will be writing to the 2,400 people who took part in the consultation to advise them that the examination hearings that had been scheduled for next month will be cancelled.

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