Councillors criticised over planned site
AN absentee councillor has criticised town hall colleagues for failing to find a new location for a travellers' site in Colchester.Labour's Phil Hawkins said he thought it "pathetic" that a cabinet made up of members from all parties could not settle on one of seven sites put forward for consideration.
AN absentee councillor has criticised town hall colleagues for failing to find a new location for a travellers' site in Colchester.
Labour's Phil Hawkins said he thought it "pathetic" that a cabinet made up of members from all parties could not settle on one of seven sites put forward for consideration.
Colchester Borough Council's inability to decide on a new location for a travellers' site has already been heavily criticised by Essex county councillors and local businessmen.
It has meant a deadline for up to £400,000 of Government money to build a new site has been allowed to pass while the town's cabinet has consistently failed to choose from proposed new locations.
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Now a major, multi-million pound regeneration scheme could be jeopardised as the county council prepares to refit the former travellers' site on Hythe Quay, in the middle of what had been a proposed riverside redevelopment zone.
Former cabinet member Mr Hawkins acknowledged that feeling among Colchester residents ran high over where the travellers' site should go, with vociferous opposition from locals to all of the proposed sites.
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"But councillors are in the job to make decisions. Sometimes those decisions are tough and unpopular, but simply not to ignore them is not good enough. In fact, it is pathetic.
"There is no such thing as an ideal travellers' site in a town, but the job of the council is to find the best one, despite the fact some people will be upset.
"There will be some people who are upset no matter where it goes, and that is just a fact of life."
Mr Hawkins, who now lives on a remote Scottish Island, is due to announce his resignation from the council on March 11, so his Wivenhoe Cross seat can be fought in next May's local government polls.
He moved to Islay in October, but delayed stepping down to avoid incurring extra costs by forcing a by-election.
Last night Liberal Democrat Terry Sutton, cabinet member with responsibility for travellers' sites, said: "I don't disagree with Mr Hawkins that councillors should make decisions. But he clearly has not seen the information given to Colchester Borough Council about the sites concerned, and so therefore his opinion is a non-entity."
Mr Sutton admitted he did not agree with the way the 18-month process of trying to identify a new travellers' site had been conducted, which was put in motion before he joined the cabinet.
And he conceded that the Hythe travellers' site was no more ideal than any of the others put forward.
"But the over-whelming evidence suggested none of the sites we looked at were suitable," he said.
Mr Sutton added that a meeting of Colchester's housing committee in March (officially known as the Quality of life Panel) would debate whether, in the light of proposed Government legislation, the town needed a travellers' site at all.