Traveller sites in short supply, say CBC

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Central Bedfordshire Council has approved a site for travelling showpeople in Heath and Reach after admitting the county has a shortage of approved settlements.

Plans for the site at Doubles Arches in Heath and Reach include 11 pitches for travellers as well as a repair facility for fairground rides.

The plans were opposed solely by Heath and Reach Parish Council – who argued that as the site was partially on Green Belt land, its development would not be in keeping with Green Belt policy.

These views were scoffed at during CBC’s development management committee on December 7.

Committee member Cllr Nigel Young said: “They haven’t objected to the people who have been living on the site since I first went on it a couple of years ago.

“So I’m at an absolute loss to understand why Heath and Reach Parish Council didn’t object at any point or demand enforcement action to remove anyone.”

He was stopped by chairman of the committee, Cllr Ken Matthews, who said: “They aren’t here to answer that.”

After further commentary about the lack of approved traveller sites, Cllr Young added: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind we have a shortage.”

The land at Double Arches was purchased by applicant Craig Smith in May 2015. Mr Smith is a traveller running a business providing fairground rides at events across the country.

As well as accommodating several families with children, the 11 pitches would also provide stable homes for elderly travellers no longer on the road.

Council officers recommended approval for the plans, stating that impact to the Green Belt land would be minimal and cited special reasons for its favour. This included article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding the intended occupants’ right to a private and family life.

After deliberating, councillors voted to approve the plans subject to ten conditions.