Local Plan threatened by lack of Gypsy sites

Warwick District Council has five years to find 25 pitches for Gypsy and travellers in the area - or else developers may be at liberty to build wherever they like.

The warning comes after representatives from the Local Government Association held a briefing with district councillors on the council’s lack of provision for Gypsies and travellers.

There are currently no authorised pitches in the district - although there is one unauthorised site with 13 pitches at Kites Nest Lane in Beausale, whose occupants have been ordered to leave.

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Dave Barber, the council’s development policy manager, explained that Government policy requires the council to find 31 pitches over the next 15 years - but 25 of these must be found by 2018.

He said: “If the sites are not found, then people in the Gypsy and traveller community could start applying for planning permission for pitches and we would be in a weak position to refuse it.

“The most important thing is that we are in control of where Gypsy and traveller provision is made.

“Our Local Plan must be approved by a Government inspector. If the inspector has doubts about the ability of our proposals to meet the needs of Gypsies and travellers, he or she could well say that our plan is not sound.”

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He said the council is currently writing to landowners across the district to see if they have suitable sites, while council-owned land is also being looked at. Before any sites can be allocated for Gypsies and travellers, a period of consultation with the public must be held.

Speaking after last week’s briefing, Cllr Alan Wilkinson (Lab, Leamington Brunswick) said: “If we don’t have the 25 pitches or if we are not seen to be working towards putting them in place, then our Local Plan will fail.

“If it fails, then developers will be able to build wherever they like. The district council as a planning authority will not be able to reject applications if there is no Local Plan.”