Mayor Dave Hodgson has rejected Conservative proposals for unnecessary Gypsy and Traveller sites throughout Bedford in urban and rural areas. The proposals, which were revealed by the Conservatives at the Borough Council Executive include plans for gypsy and traveller sites to be developed at a variety of locations including:
- Bell Farm to the west of Kempston
- Little Park Farm in Clapham - Hawk Drive Brickhill (Click here to see Map)
- Manton Lane in Bedford
- St Bede's Former Playing Field, off Bromham Road between Bedford and Biddenham
- Elstow Road in Cauldwell, near Bedford Town Centre
The proposals would see local green spaces and crucial employment sites developed as gypsy and traveller accommodation in entirely unsuitable locations. This is in spite of the fact that all sites required in the Borough through to 2021 have either already been developed or have full planning permission in place.
The conservative described Little Park Farm, located at Hawk Drive in Brickhill, as an ‘ideal’ location for a gyspy site. However the Liberal Democrats have prevented the use of the site at Hawk Drive by selling the land.
Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said:
"We reject these unnecessary and indiscriminate proposals for new gypsy and traveller sites all over the Borough. We have a clear plan for dealing with this issue and have already made considerable progress for the first time in many years, after decades of inaction. Already, an additional six pitches have been delivered at the existing Kempston Hardwick site and full planning permission is in place at Meadow Lane for the rest of the pitches required in the Borough. These proposals from the Conservatives would locate gypsy and traveller pitches at sites which are utterly unsuitable.
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Brickhill Ward Cllr Charles Royden added:
"It beggars belief that the Conservatives want to build gypsy and traveller sites in such unsuitable locations, including rural and urban green spaces, crucial employment sites and other public open space. In my ward Brickhill residents will be shocked by the Conservatives' plans to build a site at Little Park Farm off Hawk Drive. These are simply not responsible, sensible proposals, and the Tories are letting down these communities by proposing such unsuitable developments. We reject these proposals and instead will continue with delivery of our clear plan in place on gypsy and traveller sites."
Bedford Borough Council's clear policy in relation to gypsy and travellers sites is as follows:
- The Council is in a far stronger position than most authorities across the country as every single pitch required under its duty to provide a five year supply of sites is either completed or has been granted full planning permission.
- Bedford Borough Council was the first authority in the country to deliver additional pitches under the current Homes and Communities Agency Funding round with 6 additional permanent pitches at Kempston Hardwick.
- The Council has provided an emergency stopping place at Meadow Lane which will enable the Council to move unacceptable and unlawful encampments much more quickly when they occur on our green open spaces and public areas. In addition preventative measures have been installed at many parks and open spaces across the borough.
- The Council has planning permission for Meadow Lane and progress is ongoing on that site to deliver the necessary pitches by 2017, within the five-year time frame required by government.
Planning Inspector Declares Support for Gypsy and Traveller Policy (July 2013)
The Planning Inspectorate has approved Bedford Borough Councils’ strategy for the future provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites. In giving final approval to the Councils’ Allocations and Designations Plan, which covers the period right up to 2021, the Inspector has endorsed the Councils plans as being a sound approach to meeting its legal duties around Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.
The Council has a legal duty to assess the future need for gypsy and traveller sites, and identify a supply to meet that need for at least 5 years. Bedford Borough Council has built or has planning permission for every single one of the 20 sites needed to meet this duty right up to 2021. The six additional pitches provided recently at the existing Kempston Hardwick site were the first to be delivered in the Borough for many years.