Consultation begins on £9m solution to problems at Billington traveller sites

Greenacres, Little Billington
Greenacres, Little Billington

The consultation over the proposed £9m closure of the two travellers’ sites in Billington has been launched today by Central Bedfordshire Council.

The council says the suggested shut down of Greenacres and The Stables – and setting up of a new council-run facility on nearby land – would address a number of health, safety and welfare issues at the two sites .

Central Beds has 40 gypsy and traveller sites. Some are owned and managed privately and some are owned and managed by the council. They say the majority of these sites are well run and well integrated into the local community with very few issues. However the two privately owned Billington sites have ongoing issues that need to be addressed.

Problems with Greenacres and The Stables include breaches of planning permissions, absence of licensing, unsafe infrastructure (sewage, clean water to site and electricity supplies), anti-social behaviour, crime and a recent history of modern day slavery.

Central Bedfordshire Council, Bedfordshire and Thames Valley Police Forces, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service have all agreed to work together to develop a long-term solution to address the issues at these sites.

The proposal, at this stage, is for the council to buy some land close to the existing sites, build a new gypsy and traveller site which will be owned and managed by the council – and then close the existing sites. The consultation seeks feedback on this proposal but the council is also open to any other ideas people have for addressing the issues.

Councillor Kevin Collins, Deputy Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of those living on the sites is our primary concern but we also recognise the impact on the residents of Billington and the wider area. We need to find a long-term resolution to the many, and in some instances worsening, issues.

“The council currently manages three well run gypsy and traveller sites and has positive experience of developing and refurbishing gypsy and traveller sites.

“Site managers are able to deal with issues quickly, ensure residents have access to the services and support residents may need and know the people living on the sites.

“We believe that a council managed site would address the issues but we want to hear what people living on the sites and the surrounding area think of this.

“No decision made at this point. Only after we’ve considered the consultation feedback will we make a decision about the best approach.”

You can read more and have your say at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/billington

The consultation is open until November 14.

What’s your view on the council’s plans. Do you live there? Get in touch via news@lbobserver.co.uk