Gypsy and Traveller sites - interview with Councillor Nigel Young

A Gypsy and Traveller plan protects us from inappropriate developments.

By Ellen Frampton
Wednesday, 16th January 2013, 11:29 am

Speaking on Wednesday (January 16), Central Beds Councillor Nigel Young emphasised the need for the forthcoming Gypsy and Traveller Local plan.

The executive member for sustainable communities – strategic planning and economic development said: “One of the things that having a local plan does for us is prevent unauthorised encampments. If we don’t have a local plan and a Gypsy and Traveller family turns up in a field that they own or simply encamp on we would have very limited powers. From March this year they would almost certainly be granted temporary permission until we have a plan.

“Unless we have a plan we have no control over where they might settle.”

Once the plan is in place Central Beds Council will be able to direct Gypsy and Traveller families to the specific sites.

The council has a statutory duty to provide Gypsy and Traveller pitches. Over the next 20 years, the period which this plan will cover, the council will need to provide an extra 135 pitches.

A pitch consists of a fairly permanent mobile home, a touring caravan, an amenities block and often a shed. There is also room to park and room for visitors to park.

Mr Young said: “We will try to create family pitches, not one large field full of Gypsies and Travellers – we understand that that would not lead to integration between the settled community and the Gypsy and Traveller community.

“We are looking to have five to 10 pitches on a site and to leave room on that site so that, towards the end of the process in 2026, we have room for any further family extension.

“The key is we are seeking to place families together. One of the enviable things about Gypsy and Traveller communities is their family’s around them.”

Sites were deemed suitable for the long list for such reasons as available medical care, transport and education plus the land not flooding. They also need to be available in the near future.

Although a large field may be listed the site would only fill part of the field and communities would not be dwarfed by a site.

Many of the possible sites are in the north of Bedfordshire as the south is covered by green belt land. However, despite this, special circumstances may apply for sites in the south. Central Beds Council also owns more land in the north.

Mr Young added: “There are an awful lot of negative perceptions about Gypsies and Travellers and like any group in society the majority are perfectly normal, likeable people. I’ve met many of them who are just trying to get through the day. They suffer an awful lot of negativity from the settled population.

“Our task as a society is to learn to integrate with the different ethnic minorities that now form a part of multicultural Britain.”

Sites will be inhabited as and when the need arises. The Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan will be refreshed every five years.

The plan will be discussed at the sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow (Thursday, January 17) in the council’s Chicksands headquarters. The meeting is open to the public.

A shortlist will be made at the following meeting in February and this will be followed by a public consultation. The plan will not come into affect until summer next year.