The ‘soft touch’ on allowing traveller plots in Central Bedfordshire

Greenacres. (Photo:Google)
Greenacres. (Photo:Google)

Central Bedfordshire is viewed as “a soft touch” when it comes to allowing gipsy and traveller plots, it has been claimed.

There were 52 gipsy and traveller sites across Central Bedfordshire in July 2017, according to Leighton Linslade town councillor Tony Morris.

“Of that 52, there were five council-managed sites,” he told the Central Bedfordshire Council Local Plan inquiry.

“Of the remaining 47, there were nil in Luton, and there were nil in Bedford borough,” he said. “The 47 other sites were all in Central Bedfordshire. And I guess that’s because of the windfall policy which this council has adopted and been using for a number of years, and a total lack of enforcement.

“We are the soft touch of Bedfordshire and probably the soft touch of the UK. Those figures support that.”

Don Brewin, from Billington Parish Council, described it as a small parish with nine travellers sites around it.

“In Little Billington, the number of residents on the gipsy and travellers sites is around five times the number of settled residents,” he explained.

“Yet CBC has allowed more and more caravans to come on to those sites, despite someone saying: ‘We’re not going to allow any more caravans into Billington’. Rubbish.

“The second concern is the refusal of CBC to identify any new sites in brownfield areas, and certainly not near anywhere where the CBC officers live.

“They continue to use the word ‘windfall’, which is not defined. It’s not fill in a few spaces on existing sites which is what CBC have been doing to the point where things become unsafe because caravans are too close together.

“The word enforcement when Billington people think about it is a joke,” he said.

“Someone at the council said Billington is the highest priority for enforcement. There has been no, not one single, example of enforcement in any of the nine sites.”

Planning inspector Matthew Birkinshaw told the hearing: “As the plan submitted, it says you need 71 pitches. What I have done through this process is say I don’t think that’s correct. The figure is actually 28. And you’ve already met that figure because you have some planning permissions in excess of that.

“So this needs to be reflected in the plan. That’s the first point on need.

“The second part of that is an application can be submitted. The council can’t stop that happening,” he added.

“But what the council can do is ensure that when those applications do come in on those windfall sites there needs to be a robust policy.

“If they don’t meet adequate standards then the council says planning permission is refused.”

Mr Birkinshaw also told the hearing: “Any changes I make to this plan will be subject to full public consultation.”

READ MORE: Traveller sites are having significant impact on Leighton Buzzard and nearby villages, claims MP