Updates Gypsy and Traveller plan to go to consultation

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News focus

The re-drafted Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan for publication, consultation and submission to the Secretary of State, has been supported by councillors.

The draft Plan, which includes an updated shortlist list of deliverable sites for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation, will now be open for full public consultation from February 17 to 31 March, before it is submitted.

The shortlist includes four pitches off the M1 near Tingrith and 13 ptches in Pulloxhill - both sites had always been on the plan.

Councillor Nigel Young, executive member for sustainable communities (strategic planning and economic development) said: “We really do understand that this has provoked strong reactions and the ‘shortlist’ of sites has certainly caused some debate.

“From the new assessment of need, we feel the evidence points towards a smaller two per cent annual growth rate within the Gypsy and Traveller community, so our planning for the future reflects that.

The shortlist of six proposed sites accommodates an estimated 66 deliverable pitches that would help to fulfil the need for the next five years.

“We’re acutely aware of the significance of this debate for both the settled and the traveller communities.

“We also have a legal duty to provide appropriate accommodation.

“We have considered the sites in some detail after receiving really useful feedback in last year’s public consultation.

Of the previous ‘short-list’, one has been dropped and another swapped for a nearby location between Biggleswade and Dunton, on Dunton Lane.

Site 26 in Dunton Lane will replace the nearby Site 55.

Other sites may come forward as ‘windfall sites’ – in other words those that come forward for normal planning permission, outside of this Local Plan.

The draft Local Plan and site allocations will go to the Secretary of State for consideration, along with the results of the upcoming consultation.

Examination Hearings will then be held where anyone who wants to make representations can have their views heard.

Mr Young added: “We will continue to monitor the provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites against the requirements we have agreed and there is still a long way to go with this process.

“Any submissions made as part of the upcoming consultation will be provided to the Secretary of State.

“He will then appoint an independent Planning Inspector to examine the plan, the representations made to it and the process we have gone through to reach our decisions.

“The public examination will take place later this year after which the Planning Inspector will make his final ruling - either to support the plan or ask the council to look again.

“We really would encourage people to give us their views when the consultation opens because everything will go forward to the Secretary of States.”

Updates and the shortlist of sites and proposed pitch numbers can be found at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/gypsytravellerplan