Anger at demand over travellers' sites

AN ESSEX MP has attacked plans which will force councils to provide more than 1,000 extra pitches for travellers.

James Hore

AN ESSEX MP has attacked plans which will force councils to provide more than 1,000 extra pitches for travellers.

Bernard Jenkin, the MP for North Essex, spoke of his anger after details of the extra demands were published by the Government including more than a 100% increase in north and mid Essex.

Communities Secretary John Denham has published the revised figures demanding an extra 1,237 pitches in the East of England, taking the total available to more than 3,000.


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There are currently 106 authorised pitches for travellers and Gypsies provided by councils in Braintree, Chelmsford, Colchester, Maldon and Tendring.

Those councils will now have to supply an extra 126 pitches by 2011, with Chelmsford ordered to provide at least 46 of those and Colchester 25.

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There are also demands for a 3% increase every year after 2011.

The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) has pledged �9million will be available to councils this year to develop new sites and more would be available in future years.

And Mr Denham has also called on local authorities to make “rapid progress” and to “stop hiding behind excuses for inaction”.

The Government has said there is an urgent need to address the shortage of permanent accommodation for travellers, which creates health, education and employment issues.

If councils provide all the pitches required, there will be enough accommodation to clear the existing waiting lists, and reduce the likelihood of illegal sites.

But Mr Jenkin, who has a number of unauthorised traveller sites throughout his constituency, said he had serious reservations.

He told the EADT: “When travellers get planning permission on what was protected land, they are adding to the value of that land - it is a financially driven process.

“And when the region increases the target number of pitches, if the local councils have difficulty identifying where they want the pitches to go, the targets will then be taken into account by planning officers when an application is made on unsuitable sites.

“Why? How is this justified?

“If it is a question of demand, then it is the policy framework that has created artificial demand based on opportunistic planning applications. It has become a racket to make money. It is not about preserving cultural diversity.”

Last week about 200 residents from Roxwell and Writtle descended on a Chelmsford Borough Council meeting to oppose plans for a site for 20 caravans.

John Reynolds, chairman of EERA, said: “It is right that the problem is sorted as soon as possible and if it takes longer than 2011, so be it.

“We must make sure the sites are appropriate for the settled community and travellers and the government provides resources for the two groups to live in harmony. There is no need to rush and make the wrong decisions.”

TABLE

District Authorised Pitches in Jan. 06 Minimum Additional Pitches 06-11 Minimum Pitches 2011

Braintree 25 25 50

Chelmsford 35 46 81

Colchester 5 25 30

Maldon 39 15 54

Tendring 2 15 17

East of England 1,782 1,237 3,019

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