News - Gypsy and Travellers Deputation Bournemouth Council Meeting 31/07/12

NEW - 2nd August 2012

NEW - 2nd August 2012

Gypsy and Travellers Deputation Bournemouth Council Meeting

This is a statement on behalf of the Throop, Muscliff, Strouden, Townsend and Holdenhurst area forum.

We'd like to begin by saying that this is nothing to do with objecting in any way to the Gypsy and Traveller community or their way of life. This is also not NIBYism, it is an objection to the possible loss of our last remaining green belt in the north of Bournemouth for the development of three residential traveller sites; we would be objecting if this was for retail, industrial or any form of housing. If it is allowed to go ahead there is also a serious risk that it will set a precedent for other proposed development, or for the extension of these proposed sites, on the green sometime in the future.

Under the previous government the Regional Spatial Strategy imposed the number of Gypsy and Traveller sites and also required that 1,500 homes be built on the green-belt. The Council did not support the building on the green belt and argued that all the housing requirements for the Borough could be accommodated without the need to develop within the green belt. So why cannot the Gypsy and Travellers needs be accommodated along with others, such as those requiring low cost housing; it is, after all, the provision of housing within the Borough and should not be subject to special treatment?

The current government came to power under the mandate that the RSS would be scrapped and therefore, in March 2012 they passed a new Planning Policy for Travellers Sites, thereby releasing the Council to provide specific numbers of pitches for Gypsy and Travellers. The new policy states;

- Firstly, That local planning should make their own assessment for the needs for the purpose of planning, and

- Secondly, how local authorities should assemble (I quote) 'the evidence base necessary to support their planning approach'.

In view of these changes how can sites specified in the proposed Joint Development Plan Document for the whole of Dorset still be relevant, particularly in view that Section 14 states (I quote) 'Travellers sites (temporary or permanent) in the Green Belt are inappropriate development'? In our view therefore the Council has sufficient power to immediately remove these three proposed sites and state that any future proposed sites will not be located in the green belt. This view was supported by the local MP for the area Mr.Tobias Ellwood who made a powerful statement at the Forum meeting of 14 June 2012 stating that, in his view, the legislation now in place allowed the Council not only remove the proposed green belt Gypsy and Traveller development but also allowed them to submit a plan which stated that Bournemouth had insufficient space to accommodate any Gypsy and Traveller sites.

The recent consultation by Bakers Associates for the Dorset Wide Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Show people Site Allocation Joint Development Plan used figures imposed by Central Government over 5 years ago in the now scrapped South West Regional Spatial Strategy. It is very clear that the Bakers report is unsound and they did not undertake a proper and detailed investigation, through for example the local Councillors, Highways and Leisure, all who could have informed them of the serious deficiencies in their proposals. For example, the proposed Erlin Farm site ownership was not thoroughly investigated and it is not Council owned as they believed, neither was the fact that it is Graded agricultural land and, as such, should not be taken out of production. In respect of Careys Road, Highways have highlighted that it still remains part of the reservation for the section of the Castle Relief Road.

In the past there has been at least one application to development, of a single story building located on the land at the corner of Broadway Lane and Careys Road by the Jewish Day School. This application was refused by the Council as the proposal would have (I quote) 'a detrimental impact on the open space and rural character of the green belt and countryside contra to the Clause 3.1 and 3.5 of the District Wide Local Plan'. Bakers associates also appear to have failed to adequately look in detail at brown field sites, before even considering the possibility of using green belt, as they are required to do under the legislation (National Planning Policy 'Brownfields First') and residents are therefore finding it very difficult to understand why site provision is being considered on the green belt for people coming from outside the Borough when they are told this is not possible for them to develop in the area and alternative sites outside the green belt have not been thoroughly investigated and ruled out. I could go on, as there a significant number of other problems concerning the development of the three sites, but I believe anybody looking at the proposed sites would soon conclude that they should be immediately removed from any list of proposed current and future sites.

We therefore call on the Council to clearly state that these three sites will be immediately removed from the list of proposed sites (as per the Core Strategy Policy 24 which states that they (I quote) 'should not to be located in the green belt' and any other future site will be not be located in the green belt but located elsewhere in the Borough, if such suitable sites can be found. If such sites cannot be found the legislation allows the Council to say so and through its evidence based investigation will be able to justify it decision if challenged by an inspector. The Council should not be frightened in to providing sites on unsuitable locations just to be seen to be doing something for Gypsy and Travellers. This matter cannot be allowed to continue for many months whilst the 9,747 responses to the Dorset wide proposed sites, of which a significant number of 2,630 relate to the proposed Bournemouth sites, are considered and this matter is resolved. There are already instances where people needing to sell their homes are unable to do so as the purchaser will not commit to the purchase until the Gypsy and Traveller site locations are determined, which is currently a significant interminable time in the future. The Council should not underestimate the strength of feeling on this matter in the area which will only grow stronger the longer this matter remains unresolved and the possibility of development on the green belt remains.