Gypsy shock for towns

PROPOSED gipsy and traveller sites in Comet country may be moved closer to towns away from villages. Cabinet members at North Herts District Council (NHDC) decided on Tuesday night to explore the possibility of abandoning sites currently earmarked for rur

PROPOSED gipsy and traveller sites in Comet country may be moved closer to towns away from villages.

Cabinet members at North Herts District Council (NHDC) decided on Tuesday night to explore the possibility of abandoning sites currently earmarked for rural areas and move them close to towns like Hitchin, Letchworth GC and Baldock.

Mid Beds District Council (MBDC) also said it would consider sites near towns but Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) say it is not considering any new sites.

Councillor F John Smith, leader of NHDC, said: "We are looking at possible alternatives to our present rack of sites, and planning officers will report back to cabinet in June.

"Then we could rule out rural sites but we need to complete the consultation programme into the sites which have already been recommended by Government.

"Once that has been completed we can then consider other options.

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"Depending what planning officers report back to us, it is possible some sites could go on the outskirts of towns because these settlements provide amenities such as schools.

"We will make no recommendations until our June meeting other than saying we are looking at alternatives on the fringes of urban areas."

A spokesman for MBDC said: "We are still consulting local people about possible sites but some of these are on the edge of our small towns. If further edge-of-town sites are put forward, we would consider these as possible options."

SBC said in a statement: "We don't yet have any plans for new pitches in the borough. When new pitches are provided we anticipate providing them at the existing Dyes Lane site, although there is limited potential there."

Chairman of Pirton Parish Council David Saunders said: "Perhaps we will soon be getting back to living a normal life in the village.

"Ninety-nine per cent of people here are against this plan for the village."

Councillor Sheila James, of St Paul's Walden Parish Council, said: "We would be delighted if we were taken off the list of sites being considered."

The current sites in Comet country are on land close to Stevenage Rugby Club; Preston Hills, Whitwell; Lilley Bottom Road, St Paul's Walden; Holwell Road, Pirton; West Drive, Arlesey; Arlesey Road, Stotfold; Kennel Farm Holdings, Biggleswade and St Albans Road, Codicote.

Both NHDC and SBC were among six councils in Hertfordshire including the county council who commissioned a report by consultants Scott Wilson into potential gipsy and traveller sites in their individual area.

It followed a recommendation from the East of England Regional Assembly that 1,180 new gipsy and traveller pitches must be found in the region with 99 in Bedfordshire and 115 in Hertfordshire by 2011.

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