New Traveller pitches agreed by councillors

Traveller site
Traveller site

New Gypsy and Traveller pitches got the all clear from Central Beds Council’s executive committee.

The meeting followed on from the discussions about the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan at last week’s sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee.

On Tuesday (January 21) councillors agreed the scrutiny committee’s recommendations to place 15 pitches on Site 26 off Dunton Lane, Biggleswade and 10 pitches on Site 76 in Fairfield.

The councillors also informally gave their support to increasing the size of the Gypsy and Traveller site in Common Road, Potton from 14 pitches to 27 pitches.

James Gregory, speaking on behalf of Dunton residents, voiced disapproval of the council’s decision to replace Site 55 in Dunton Lane with the nearby Site 26.

He said: “Last week we were told what councillors wanted to do without giving us a reason or justification to switching the sites. Residents feel this has been done behind closed doors.”

As at the previous meeting, he suggested that the council consider placing a site next to Bibby, which is on Stratton Business Park in Biggleswade.

He said it is the preferred spot of Travellers and has better access to facilities.

Councillor Nigel Young, who is leading the plan making process, said that the site could be considered but not as part of the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan as it is not in the system at this stage.

He added: “The reason we switched the sites was because of the consultation.”

Potton Council Chairman Alan Leggatt spoke about the plan to double the town’s existing site in size. He said: “Last week there was no debate amongst the scrutiny committee members on this issue.

“Anyone familiar with the history of the last 40 years will know of the difficulties and problems the previous authority got themselves when they extended the site in 1990.

“In 1996, following advice from the police, they renovated the site at great cost and they had to halve the number of pitches. The current Travellers at the site are totally against the expansion.”

Councillor Young responded that the previous problems were caused by overcrowding and that this is a problem once more, hence the need to expand the site.

He held up the large site at Eaton Bray as an example of a well run site. Councillor Adam Zerny of Potton queried why the sites that scored highest in the assessment had not been chosen.

Councillor Young responded that they had also looked at the sites and used their common sense to judge suitability.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Zerny said: “Once again a committee entirely made up of conservatives voted through the plan unanimously. Once again major concerns were raised about a site near Dunton and an extension to the existing Potton site. Once again they were ignored.”

The plan is set to go before full council on Thursday, January 30.