Mobile home deliveries near Leighton Buzzard cause controversy due to ‘blocked roads and hours of delays’

Villagers near Leighton Buzzard were left angry when mobile home deliveries caused blocked roads and hours of delays.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 10:23 am
One of the mobile home deliveries.

The large vehicles caused havoc for residents in Little Billington and Slapton with many saying they were worried about the prefabricated homes damaging buildings, trees or street furniture. At one point they say they faced a six-hour road blockage.

The deliveries arrived in February and were ordered by members of the Travelling community based at Toddbury Farm, The Stables, and Greenacre sites.

However, a Gypsy Council spokesman told the LBO yesterday that the Travellers couldn’t be held responsible for the logistics of the delivery of the mobile homes.

One village resident, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed: “Imagine a 15 x 50ft vehicle getting through the tight S-bends of Slapton. The vehicle hangs over each pavement.

“During the week [February 10 to February 17], nine large HGVs carrying new mobile homes have been seen traveling through Little Billington. In that same period another three large HGVs, one carrying a 15 x 50ft-plus load, have been through Slapton.

“The vehicle carrying the 15ft wide home took an hour just to get through Slapton, with no traffic movement possible.

“There is another 15ft wide load due through Slapton today [February 17].

“As you can probably imagine, local residents are heartily annoyed with the whole situation and want action.”

Another Slapton resident claimed: “We have had a week or two of huge lorries with mobile homes coming through our village trying to navigate sharp narrow bends with everyone having to move their cars and vans.”

He claimed on Monday, February 15, Mill Road was blocked for six hours, and two days later a load had got stuck on a bend at the end of the village for several hours and blocked the road. He said he had inspected the spot by the bend and claimed there had been damage to verges, signage and trees.

He said: “My question is - who is going to make this good? I don’t want to pay it out of my council tax and of course the trees cannot be repaired.

“This is wrong and should not be allowed, “ he added. “Especially when there is supposed to be a limit on the number of mobile homes on the travellers’ site in Little Billington.”

In June 2020, the LBO reported that Central Bedfordshire Council had submitted its own application for continued use of the land at Slapton Road, Billington, for 77 caravans, plus retention of two buildings for unrestricted residential use.

In March 2019, it was revealed that there were 146 caravans on the site – 100 more than the permitted amount at the time – and in submitting its application the council expected the number of pitches to reduce with its application.

However, in response to the commotion caused in the villages, the LBO received an email from a third resident, who claimed: “There is a chronic national shortage of caravan sites for Gypsies and Travellers and the government should remedy this to provide more sites or site extensions and recognise their cultural needs.

“After all, as towns like Leighton Buzzard grow in population, it is only to be expected that Traveller communities will similarly expand. Therefore, more houses will be needed on sites so that families can stay together.

“It is understandable that the delivery of new mobile homes has caused some issues but how else are they to reach the sites? Perhaps the government and councils should have realised these problems when they initially chose these locations.”

They added: “Ongoing tensions between the settled and Traveller community demonstrates that councils should provide more help and outreach work to try and help unite the settled and Traveller community. One wonders if any charities could help?

“Governments and local councils should recognise that there are these tensions. And in this day and age you would think they could also assist more in getting these large mobile homes in the sites to minimise disruption.”

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman confirmed that for Greenacres and The Stables, from a planning perspective, there were no new breaches because the council is already enforcing for being over numbers.

They told the LBO that additional units on Toddbury Farm had led to a breach and an enforcement process had begun last week.

The spokesman said: “We are aware of the deliveries of mobile homes to the Toddbury Farm, The Stables, and Greenacre sites. Our officers have been monitoring the situation and engaging with the residents, and taking action where there have been any new breaches of planning permission.”

South West Beds MP, Andrew Selous, said: “I have been in frequent communication with CBC to check that any new homes being brought on to local Traveller sites have the relevant planning permission. I am also aware that local roads have on occasions been blocked by these new homes and that CBC, Buckinghamshire Council and the police are meeting to resolve this issue.”

Buckingham MP Greg Smith added: “I am very concerned to hear about the disruption being suffered by Slapton residents with large HGVs moving pre-fabricated homes through the village.

“I am working closely with Andrew Selous MP and local councils to try and work out what on earth is going on, especially as nowhere locally has planning permission for such additional park homes. Unauthorised development is unacceptable and the full force of the law must be used to stop any such development.”

Commenting on site shortages, Director of the Gypsy Council, Joseph Jones, claimed: “There’s an unmet need in Central Bedfordshire and it’s one that’s been going on for years, and the local authority, in my opinion, has never really addressed it.

“Most local authorities have got a current, up to date Local plan but Central Bedfordshire doesn’t. So how can they know what the need is?

“There’s been some attempts by the council to provide new provision and various applications to provide new provision. It’s not good for the community, [if the Gypsy and Traveller families have to resort to] living in laybys and on wasteland, especially not for the children. I’m trying to work with the local authroity to make sure there is provision in CBC.”

Mr Jones told the LBO that he has five planning appeals in the area that he is hoping to win, and that if all fail, around 60 families will be made homeless. He added: “CBC has the second largest number of Gypsy and Traveller site pitches in the country. It’s not a matter of distribution; people live where they want to live. For example, there’s a high concentration of all sorts of communities in London, such as the Bangladeshis in East London. You can’t say you want to ‘redistribute’ a community.”

Responding to allegations of damage, Mr Jones said if there was damage during the delivery of the homes, it may have been the delivery firm’s fault, “not anybody else’s”.