A town’s Gypsy and Traveller site will be extended, councillors have decided.
Central Beds Council’s sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee met yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss the draft Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.
Councillors had to decide how many new Gypsy and Traveller pitches will be needed and where they should be.
Guidance from the planning inspectorate indicates that a compound growth rate of three per cent should be used to predict the Gypsy and Traveller population over the next two decades.
Using the three per cent rate would almost guarantee that the plan is sound – meaning that Gypsy and Traveller families would be unlikely to win an appeal if planning permission were to be turned down for a new site elsewhere in Central Beds.
But Councillor Nigel Young, who is leading the discussions about the local plan, said he believes that the growth rate will be no more than two per cent. This reduce the number of pitches needed in the plan but it would increase the risk of the plan being declared unsound and so not protecting the countryside against unauthorised encampments.
Councillors agreed to use the two per cent rate.
They then discussed where the new Traveller sites should be. Councillor Young told the public, who had gathered to listen to the meeting and give speeches, that no sites would be added to the plan that were not chosen before last year’s consultation.
The exception was Site 26 in Dunton Lane, Biggleswade. Councillors agreed that this site would replace the nearby Site 55 due to concern about the archaeological value of the land at Site 55.
The number of pitches at the site would be increased from the previously mentioned number of 10 to 15.
It was also agreed that Site 58, which is next to Gamlingay Heath and very close to Potton, would be removed from the plan. A key reason given for this was concerns by the Gypsy and Traveller community at the existing site in Potton. They were worried about potential conflict with a new set of Travellers who would possibly be from a different section of the travelling community.
Instead councillors agreed that the existing site in Potton should be expanded. However this could not be included in the plan as it had not been listed in the original survey and consultation.
As agreed by councillors last year, the plan will also include 10 pitches at Site 76, land south of Fairfield and west of Stotfold Road,
Additionally the plan includes 13 pitches at Pulloxhill, four pitches at Tingrith and nine pitches at Caddington plus 15 pitches in Barton le Clay, up from 10 in the previous draft of the plan.
These adds up to 66 pitches. Even though the councillors agreed a two per cent population rate this figure fulfils the 2.5 per cent requirement.
The remaining required pitches will be added as “windfall sites” – sites which are given planning permission after an application without being included in the plan.
For a two per cent growth rate there will need to be 18 additional windfall pitches over the next 10 years or 36 pitches at a 2.5 per cent rate. Councillor Young believes enough planning applications will be submitted to meet these figures.
If more than enough windfall pitches are approved the number of pitches required at the sites listed in the plan may be reduced.