Council under pressure to allocate gypsy and traveller sites in South Ribble

dispute: Travellers at the BTR fields in Farington in 2003. Below, Coun Paul Foster
dispute: Travellers at the BTR fields in Farington in 2003. Below, Coun Paul Foster

Allocated sites for gypsies and travellers should be earmarked in South Ribble, it is argued.

The borough council has been reluctant to set aside sites for travelling communities in its future housing plans, but the Government’s planning inspector has raised concerns over the lack of evidence to support this ruling.

The opposition Labour leader has also spoken out about the leading Conservatives’ decision to omit gypsy and traveller sites from its Local Development Framework (LDF).

Coun Matthew Tomlinson said: “In accepting that it is politically difficult to make this type of decision, the fact is that travellers do exist and they have to be catered for, because if they’re not, they could just turn up on our parks and car parks.

“The current leadership of the council has been reluctant to cater for travellers for a long time, but we do need to be more robust about this decision-making.

“It can’t just be because ‘we don’t want those sort of people around here’.

“People might not want it, but it’s my view that it would be better to have somewhere for them to stay so that if they turn up on parks or car parks, we can say ‘no, we have some proper provision for you here.’”

After planning inspector Susan Heywood visited Leyland in March last year for the LDF planning hearings, she told the council its arguments for preventing gypsies and travellers from settling in the area were outdated.

In a follow-up letter, she wrote: “During the examination it became apparent that the absence of any allocation of sites for the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers is not supported by an up-to-date Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA).

“To justify its approach, the plan relies on the Lancashire GTAA 2007, which covers the issue of need for gypsies and travellers between 2006 and 2016. It concludes there is no need identified for additional residential pitches within South Ribble.”

But she added that South Ribble Council needed to work with Chorley and Preston to create an up-to-date GTAA.

“The 2007 GTAA was based on a ‘need where it arises’ approach,” she wrote.

“The report recognises the unsustainability of that approach and recommends that the authorities within the study area seek to address the under-provision of gypsy and traveller accommodation (estimated as between 126 and 147 new pitches before 2011 and between 79 and 84 additional pitches before 2016 across the study area).”

She added: “The 2007 GTAA is not sufficiently up-to-date and consequently, the approach of the plan to not allocate sites for gypsies and travellers is not underpinned by robust evidence.”

The three councils produced a new GTAA at the end of last year, but the inspector has since been in contact with South Ribble Council asking for more work to be carried out.

South Ribble’s planning manager Helen Hockenhull, said: “After consideration by the inspector, there have been a number of concerns raised regarding the study findings.

“On this basis, the inspector has asked the council to carry out further work on the GTAA and that preparation of a separate Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Development Plan Document is also carried out.”

A public consultation was launched last month, and the findings will be sent to the inspector for consideration.

The council’s leader, Coun Margaret Smith, said: “We have taken on board all of the recommendations put forward by the planning inspector with regards to the Development Plan Document.

“We intend to carry out further work with the councils in Chorley and Preston to produce a separate policy document addressing the needs of gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople.”

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