Calls to stop consultation over travellers' sites are thrown out
By Somerset Guardian | Thursday, June 21, 2012, 11:15
A Conservative proposal to halt a consultation on potential traveller sites across Bath and North East Somerset has been rejected at a council meeting.
Councillors met on Monday afternoon to discuss the authority's ongoing plans to look at various plots of land in the area, to see if they are suitable to be designated as official sites for the travelling community.
A number of them – including at Stanton Wick and Radstock – have already proved controversial with people living nearby.
The Conservative group argued that the consultation process was flawed and that the ruling Liberal Democrat party needed to "go back to the drawing board" to make sure they found more appropriate locations.
Councillor Malcolm Hanney (Con, Chew Valley North) said: "It is very difficult to see how the Radstock, Keynsham and Stanton Wick sites can have been determined by the cabinet to be preferred sites.
"One way or another the cabinet will have to recognise that it has got it wrong and will need to listen before it is too late."
However, this was rejected by the Liberal Democrats, who said they were determined to continue with the process, giving people the chance to have their say on the list of potential sites before a decision was made.
B&NES council leader Paul Crossley said: "This is not a consultation, it is a pre-consultation, asking the questions and working with people.
"I fully understand this is not the most popular question I am going to ask anyone, but the question of halting it is just going back to 20 years of inaction by this council.
"At the moment no decisions have been made, we are just asking questions about the six sites."
When it came to the vote, the Liberal Democrats were backed by the Labour group and the Independent councillors.
The consultation, which runs until July 18, will continue as before. The matter will then be discussed at a cabinet meeting on September 12.
The six sites being considered are a plot in Station Road, Newbridge; the traveller site in Lower Bristol Road, Twerton; land near Ellsbridge House in Keynsham; the Old Colliery Buildings in Stanton Wick; land at Wollard Lane, Whitchurch; and the former Radstock Infant School canteen.
The B&NES cabinet member for homes and planning responsible for overseeing the consultation, Tim Ball (Lib Dem, Twerton), attended a Radstock Town Council meeting on Monday after being invited by councillors to explain what a traveller site in Radstock could mean for residents.
Several people spoke at the meeting concerned about access at the proposed Bath Old Road site and questioned what impact it could have on the conservation area status.
Mr Ball acknowledged that there were concerns about the site but stressed that this was the start of the consultation and encouraged people to come forward with alternative sites.
Town councillor Chris Dando (Labour) echoed comments by his colleagues who welcomed B&NES taking action to address a lack of traveller pitches within the district but said the council "had heard enough" from residents to say there are concerns about the proposed allocation in Radstock. He added that the site could also possibly be "better used to meet housing provision" by having the whole of the former school site converted to housing.
Councillor Peter Sas (Labour) voiced concerns about proposals to build within the green belt or conservation areas.