Homes put before travellers' sites

PUBLISHED: 21:46 04 November 2009 | UPDATED: 10:59 07 July 2010

The tricky task of finding permanent sites for gypsies and travellers in north Norfolk is likely to be put off so that new homes can be built more quickly.

The tricky task of finding permanent sites for gypsies and travellers in north Norfolk is likely to be put off so that new homes can be built more quickly.

The district council was told by the government it must identify 15 residential pitches, on top of the two short-stay sites currently being built in the area, by 2011 as part of the region's overall provision for the travelling community.

But so far the council has chosen not to make any plans after their own consultation revealed there was no need for permanent sites in north Norfolk.

Now the authority's planning blueprint for the future - which identifies land which is suitable for housing, retail and other developments over the next few years - is about to be submitted for approval without any reference to potential traveller sites.

In a report to go before members of the council's local development framework working party on Monday, it is suggested the council presses ahead with the current plan, submitting it to an independent inspector.

Mark Ashwell, planning policy manager, said addressing the issue of travellers' sites at such a late stage would hold up building much-needed homes in the area.

He said: “If we started to do that it would probably take 18 months or two years to go through the necessary process. This report is suggesting we shouldn't delay allocating land for residential development while we look at sites for gypsies and travellers.”

The report says the lack of provision for travellers' pitches could potentially make the entire development plan “unsound”.

A planning inspector could reject it - forcing them to go back to the drawing board at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.

But Mr Ashwell said choosing to hold back the plans and submit them at a later date once proposed sites had been found, would also be risky. He said: “It is a bit like a rock and a hard place.”

The report suggests looking into the issue of travellers' sites separately to give the council more time to work out whether the area really needed the pitches and where they could be sited.

Mr Ashwell said if the council chose not to allocate land for travellers, the government could step in and apply for planning permission itself, but he added: “We are a long way away from that.”

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