Gypsy & Traveller Site Plan Withdrawn by Central Bedfordshire Council

by Alan D Winter

Discussion over the proposed withdrawal of Central Bedfordshire Council's Gypsy and Traveller Plan dominated the Council's meeting last night (11 Sept). From Barton-le-Clay, Mr Knight addressed the councillors saying that the council had disregard to listening to 4,000 people in that town. He said the action group did not agree with using the green belt, and that they had found 10 other suitable sites. He went on to invite the council to work with them.

Central Bedfordshire Council: filmed  
Cllr Young (Conservative) agreed to assign an officer to work with the action group to look at these sites.

Barton-le-Clay resident, Janet Nunn, a former CBC Liberal Democrat councillor, addressed the meeting pointing out that the planning inspector had said that it was unclear how the chosen sites had been arrived at. She said that the council had ignored planning guidelines and no exceptional circumstances had been given for the use of the green belt. The Council for the Protection of Rural England did not support the Plan, either. Mrs Nunn suggested that the council's own staff (whistleblowers) had been uncomfortable about working to put sites in the green belt, and suggested that CBC needed to look at integrated sites, such as at Cheltenham where one had been established for more than 40 years.

Cllr Young pointed out that the planning inspector had suggested that not enough sites had been included in the plan, asking for a 3% compound growth rate whereas the council's plan had allowed for just 2% compound growth rate. This would mean finding an additional 60-70 sites to meet a new target. Councillors all around showed support for sticking to a 2% growth rate, and it was suggested that the planning inspector's claim for a higher rate had no precedent.

Later in the meeting Cllr Young was challenged by Cllr Adam Zerny (Independent, Potton) to give the cost of the gypsy and traveller consultations. This Cllr Young  put this at £26,000 for consultants plus other untrackable costs that are inextricably wrapped up in the cost of running the whole council. Cllr Stay (Conservative, Caddington) wanted to know the cost of repetitive questions to officers by certain councillors. Cllr Young replied, " if it was more than £10, it's been a complete waste of money".

Councillors voted to agree to withdraw their Gypsy and Traveller plan for the time being, saying there was insufficient time for them to answer the inspector's questions demanded by him for a meeting on 23rd September, and that it had been regrettable that the inspector had not allowed them more time.

A revised plan will need to be submitted in the future to protect Central Bedfordshire's communities from unwarranted intrusions by illegal encampments.

The meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council was filmed last night by local residents. Unfortunately the sound quality is very poor.