‘Why don’t the rules apply to travellers?’

The Greenacres site in Little Billington has caused controversy over the years.
The Greenacres site in Little Billington has caused controversy over the years.

Parish councils in LBO land have blasted Central Beds Council over its alleged weak handling of planning enforcement regarding travellers.

Central Beds CEO, Richard Carr, recently held a meeting with representatives of Billington, Stanbridge and Tilsworth Parish Councils at Billington Village Hall, along with members of the Environment Agency.

Don Brewin, of Billington Parish Council, said: “The meeting was the first stage in a formal complaint we are taking out against CBC.

“Part of the issue is to do with travellers – 60% of traveller sites in Central Bedfordshire are located within five miles of Stanbridge Church.

“The second issue is the inconsistency in the way planning issues are dealt with.”

Mr Brewin alleged that CBC took a “more favourable attitude” to travellers, while protests from the parish councils were apparently “ignored or fobbed off”.

He said: “The rules relating to the Green Belt seem to be applied more generously to travellers than the settled community.”

Concerns raised include alleged encroachments on to residents’ property, retrospective planning applications, unauthorised entrances, fly-tipping, sewage discharge and a belief that the traveller population is dominating the villages.

Joseph Jones, spokesman of the Gypsy Council, has been involved with several planning applications along Stanbridge Road, between Leighton and Billington. He dismissed the claims as “absolute rubbish”.

He said: “How can anyone say the council are giving gypsies and travellers an easy ride? In my opinion, the council and the planning committee go through every aspect of our planning applications with a fine toothcomb.

“Most people would say that is a good thing, but it generates an awful lot of additional paperwork. We do that paperwork. If a planning application fails, we appeal if we think the reasons for refusal are incorrect.

“If local authorities refuse planning applications without good reason, they have to pay the costs of that appeal when they lose. So simply refusing planning applications for the sake of it is not an option for the council.”

Talking about the complaints, Mr Jones added: “It’s because they don’t like gypsies or travellers, and that’s not a valid reason in planning to object any more than if they wanted to object about Asian or Jewish applicants.”

Andrew Davie, CBC’s development infrastructure manager, said: “The decisions to approve Gypsy and Traveller sites have been subject to the same due democratic process as with all planning matters.

“We deal with each case in fair and transparent way and have listened to the issues that residents have raised.

“Where the powers allow, across various services, the council will take the appropriate steps to deal with complaints, including the recent reports about fly-tipping.”

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