MP attacks Government's traveller plans

NEW powers given to councils to stop unauthorised development on travellers' sites are “a huge disappointment”, according to an MP who is campaigning against an illegal settlement in Suffolk.

By Jonathan Barnes

NEW powers given to councils to stop unauthorised development on travellers' sites are “a huge disappointment”, according to an MP who is campaigning against an illegal settlement in Suffolk.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said the legislation would not solve the problems at the site near Woolpit, where travellers set up home and have been refused retrospective planning permission.

The Government said yesterday councils are due to be given powers within the next few weeks to enforce an immediate halt on unauthorised developments - such as fences, hardstanding, lighting and water supplies - at sites occupied by travellers.


You may also want to watch:


It follows a spate of protests over illegal camps across the country.

Consultation on the proposed new “temporary stop notices” ended on Wednesday, and the powers are expected to come into effect in March.

Most Read

But Mr Ruffley said: “No-one is saying exactly what these powers are going to be. It's taken them two years to come up with this and it's pathetically inadequate.

“It will come as a huge disappointment to the concerned villagers at Woolpit because this is not going to solve the problem. The Government are all talk and no action.”

Heather Morgan, planning control manager at Mid Suffolk District Council, which is in dispute with the travellers over the 18-plot site, said: “We are aware of the new legislation and we are considering our options on the site.”

Mr Ruffley also expressed dismay at an announcement from housing minister Yvette Cooper that the Government was “consulting” on an obligation on local authorities to identify more appropriate sites for gypsies and travellers. Councils will be able to bid for money to create new residential sites under the new initiative.

He said: “They have been consulting on this for two years and now they have decided to consult again.

“They know there are not enough sites and what the problems are so it's beyond belief. There should be a national strategy on this.”

Ms Cooper said local authorities were not identifying enough appropriate locations either for private or public sites and did not have enough powers to swiftly deal with development on inappropriate sites.

She added: “That is why we are consulting on a new obligation on local authorities to identify more appropriate sites, as well as new powers to take immediate action if the development is in the wrong place and cannot be tolerated in even the short term because of risk to local amenity and the environment.”

Tim Everson, team leader of the traveller education support service at Suffolk County Council, backed the move towards identifying new travellers' sites.

There are currently three designated traveller sites in Suffolk - at Kessingland, near Lowestoft, at West Meadows in Ipswich, and at Beck Row, near Mildenhall.

He said: “It is not enough. It's important that local authorities should look at accommodation needs of the travelling community.

“But it needs a political will and political agendas often get in the way.”

Editorial comment - Page 26

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk>

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus