Rugby Borough Council's repeated failure on gypsy and traveller sites back in spotlight
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There was little surprise when a jam-packed agenda at last month’s Rugby Borough Council’s planning committee meeting couldn’t be completed by a reasonable time of night – much to the frustration of Barnacle residents who had turned out in force to express their opposition to a string of applications in their area.
With no attempt to switch the agenda round in recognition of their presence, the meeting ground on until councillors backed a motion to defer consideration of five proposals to make existing pitches permanent because it was so late – and to see if a similar sixth could be brought back and reconsidered alongside the others.
But that decision was made only after the Conservative-controlled borough council came under fire from the Conservative county councillor for the Barnacle area over its failure to establish a policy that would see sufficient sites, that would also be shared more equitably.
Speaking on a previous item at the March 15 meeting, where a separate site at Barnacle was given a temporary five-year permission instead of the approval recommended by officers, Cllr Adrian Warwick (Con, Fosse), said: “Rugby Borough Council planning department has failed.
"It has failed Barnacle, Wolvey and Shilton Ward and equally importantly, it has failed the travelling community.”
And he said the council had not fulfilled its pledge dating back to 2014 to find sites: “What is apparent is Rugby Borough Council has for the last decade abjectly failed to carry out its function to meet the needs for this community.
"I do not blame the gypsy and traveller community for their applications as they need to live somewhere.”
And in terms of the imbalance in location, he added: “One ward is doing 90 per cent of the work at this point in time.”
He also pointed out at that same March meeting there was no provision around Rugby: "Coton, Houlton and now the southern urban extension are all major developments, all of which by insistence with developers should have had high-quality, sustainable traveller accommodation as part of their masterplans. However that never happened.
"In 2019 the planning inspector gave notice the Local Plan was sound only if Rugby Borough Council carried out a needs assessment and allocate sites.
"Again this has not been done.”
With the council still struggling to define a policy – and against a background of something between 56 and 79 new pitches needed in the period up to 2037 – the Barnacle applications it did not make a decision on last month will be back before the committee on Wednesday, April 19.
Councillors will be asked to vote first of all on whether to rescind the decision on the first of the six similar applications and then either consider all six or the remaining five.
The meeting takes place at 5.30pm at the Town Hall. Members of the public can attend or watch a livestream.
The agenda is now available on the borough council’s website.