Central Beds Council has today voted unanimously to put its £9m plans to shut down the controversial Greenacres travellers’ site on hold for the time being.
CBC has devised a plan to acquire both Greenacres and nearby The Stables in Little Billington – if necessary by compulsory purchase – in order to establish a replacement council-owned and managed gypsy and traveller site.
It follows years of Greenacres hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons with reports of crime, fly-tipping, open sewage and theft of water and electricity supplies. It was notably the centre of a human slavery scandal uncovered in 2011, which saw 24 people rescued.
But with the council’s “radical” plan hanging over them, the travellers have given CBC assurances that their behaviour will improve, and councillors voted to give residents a chance.
The council will now set up a project board to aimed at making the sites compliant with planning and licencing regulations, safe and well maintained, well managed and accessible to the authorities.
The project board will define the standards that will need to be met, and in what timescale, and if this doesn’t work CBC will look to press ahead with its original plan to acquire Greenacres and The Stables and build a new council-owned and managed site.
Cllr Ian Dalgarno spoke to explain the project board option but admitted it was “problematic” and added: “It may not achieve the level required for a long-term solution.”
He said in the meantime a parallel process would get underway where officers would start the initial steps for the compulsory purchase of the site in what he said was a “carrot and stick approach”.
He said the £9m cost was accounted for in the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan.
Ahead of the vote, council leader Cllr James Jamieson told the meeting: “We are sat here with a tight budget. Spending £9m is a very radical approach and one we are only contemplating because we are recognising the issue for local residents, not only for the settled community but also on that site.
“This current situation doesn’t help anybody so we’ve got to have a change and this is a very serious attempt at change. We are conscious that it is potentially very expensive. We want the best solution for everyone on this site and we are not in the mood to compromise on the outcome that we achieve.”
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> More on this story later in the week.