Traveller sites set to double in Suffolk

THE number of gypsy and caravan pitches in Suffolk will almost double in the next three years, under new proposals submitted to the Government.

Russell Claydon

THE number of gypsy and caravan pitches in Suffolk will almost double in the next three years, under new proposals submitted to the Government.

An independent panel of planning inspectors yesterday recommended 156 new residential pitches for travellers are approved in the county by 2011.

It means every council in Suffolk will now have to provide authorised accommodation sites for travellers.

Under the recommendations the authorised pitches would increase from 169 to 325 - a 92% rise - and local authorities are also being asked to make extra provision for travelling showpeople.

Due to the tight timeframe councils have already started their preparations for finding new sites ahead of the final Government announcement in the summer of 2009.

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St Edmudsbury Borough Council is looking to meet the demand for a recommended 20 additional sites by building a new site at Depden, seven miles south of Bury St Edmunds. They received confirmation of a £737,945 grant to develop pitches from the Government yesterday, the highest to be given out to a single council in the whole of the east of England.

Last night a spokeswoman said: “A housing study has identified a need for 15 extra pitches for gypsies and travellers in St Edmundsbury. We have only just had confirmation of our funding bid to enlarge a family site at Depden (which would provide a total of 6 pitches). We will now consider the next stage.

“We have only just received the information published today about the planning inspectors' panel recommendation for five more pitches in St Edmundsbury, but we have not yet had the opportunity to study the evidence.”

Amongst the other recommendations for additional pitches in Suffolk, the Mid Suffolk area would need to provide 42 and Suffolk Coastal, which currently has none, will need to meet the demand for 31.

The exact number of sites these would be spread across is not currently known.

Shammi Jalota, Suffolk County Council's social inclusion and diversity manager, said: “It is a vast number of pitches to identify between now and 2011 but some (councils) have already looked for them and granted planning permission.

“Nationally there is a shortage of pitch provision which leaves unauthorised encampments to appear and the eastern region has a high number from the lack of pitch provision.

“So the Government's intervention will hopefully, in the long run, reduce the number of unauthorised encampments and the costs of managing them.”

He added the district and borough councils will need to work with their local communities to ensure they understand the need for the facilities and involve them in the decision-making process.

“It is really important discussions and engagement with local people take place,” he said.

In Suffolk nine existing plots for travelling showpeople have been recommended, with the Suffolk Coastal area being marked as one potential site. The county currently provides provision for 20 families putting on shows.

In total the inspectors recommend an additional 1,237 residential pitches for the east of England by 2011, from an existing base of 1,836.

Gypsy and traveller caravan pitches in Suffolk:

Local authority Authorised pitches Number of additional residential

in 2006 pitches proposed by 2011

Babergh 0 15

Forest Heath 47 18

Ipswich 43 15

Mid Suffolk 69 42

St Edmundsbury 2 20

Suffolk Coastal 0 31

Waveney 20 15

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