Relief for Harlington but upset for Barton at traveller sites decision
A new gipsy and traveller site in Barton could become a reality after a committee agreed a 10-year plan for developing new pitches.
The Green Belt site, to the west of the A6 and south of Faldo Road, will now go forward to public consultation.
Also on the list are three existing sites: on the A5 south of Dunstable, at Tingrith and at Pulloxhill, just north of Barton. These would be expanded to provide new pitches.
One Barton resident said after the meeting: “We’re going to have more than a third of the new pitches within half a mile of Barton.”
Barton councillor Ian Shingler, an independent, had earlier accused Central Beds Council of taking a “cavalier” approach to developing gipsy and traveller sites in the Green Belt.
“The site is immediately adjacent to Sharpenhoe Clappers, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty,” he said. “Businesses are threatening to leave the village if this goes ahead. If you impose this you will be robbing us of much needed employment.”
The council’s Overview & Scrutiny Sustainable Communities committee had hoped to decide on 157 pitches to provide for gipsies and travellers up to 2031.
But only 66 were agreed today, which Councillor Nigel Young, responsible for Sustainable Communities, said would meet the council’s need to supply land for the next 10 years.
More than 2,500 letters had been sent to the council since a long list of potential sites was announced in January, he said.
Explaining the council legally had to provide housing for gipsy and traveller families under the Housing Act 2004, policy advisor Richard Bennett said: “After March 2013 if you don’t have a five year land supply and up to date policy you will be expected to grant temporary planning permission for any site.”
He said gipsies and travellers were the most socially excluded group in the country, and suffered from poor education outcomes and health issues such as high infant mortality rates.
But there were shouts of “rubbish” and “don’t be stupid” from members of the public when he said travellers were no more likely to commit crime than people from the settled community.
Mr Bennett responded: “I have studied this subject and have all the data - there is not one bit of evidence to say gipsies and travellers have any more predilection towards crime.”
There was relief for villagers from Harlington and Bidwell after their sites were not taken forward, despite committee chair David McVicar initially saying he was in favour of the Harlington site.
The village’s parish council chair, Mary Walsh, said: “We’re very pleased. Our residents have been very good, I know they sent objections en masse.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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