Inspection questions a ‘lack of transparency’ over sites chosen


Concerns have been raised over the lack of transparency in Central Beds’ Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.

Concerns have been raised over the lack of transparency in Central Beds’ Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.

An independent inspector, who has been examining the plan, said that he could find no record of the reasons the final seven sites, including Dunton, Biggleswade and land south of Fairfield, were picked for new Gypsy and Traveller sites.

That plan was approved by Central Beds earlier this year, but must also be approved by a government-appointed
 inspector before it can be put in place.

A hearing to discuss the issue is set to be held on September 23, with a number of issues being raised by the inspector.

A report states: “I have seen no contemporaneous record of the reasons for the choice of those sites either before or after the executive meeting or full council.”

It adds: “The apparent lack of a published, reasoned justification for the choices made causes me particular concern. On what basis can I be satisfied that the most appropriate sites have been chosen and the exceptional circumstances test met?”

He adds that he believes there have been errors in the way the number of pitches needed has been calculated.

With regards to the Dunton site the inspector notes that the local school is already oversubscribed, and asks whether walking to school would be a ‘realistic, attractive or safe prospect’.

Flooding is highlighted as a potential issue for the Fairfield site.

Jason Longhurst, Director of Regeneration and Business at Central Beds Council, said: “The Inspector has prepared a list of questions for comment and clarification and any statements in response need to be prepared by Friday 22 August.

“While we are disappointed by the tone of these comments, we will be working to this deadline as requested. It is too early to say what our response will be but any statements will be made available on the council’s website once submitted.

“We are acutely aware of the significance of this Plan to our communities and hope that we will be able to take next steps in the near future.”