Gypsy & Traveller Site - Billington Consultation
To receive the outcomes of consultation and seek agreement for next steps for the Billington Gypsy and Traveller Sites.
1. That the results from the consultation be noted.
2. To authorise the Director of Community Services to continue to co-ordinate robust action under planning, licensing, environmental health, community safety, housing and other relevant powers to bring the sites up to the following standards:
· Compliant with planning and licensing regulations
· Safe and well maintained
· Well managed and accessible to the authorities.
3. That in the event that resolution 2 (above) does not bring the sites up to standard, Officers will bring a recommendation to the Executive, to acquire Greenacres and The Stables using a Compulsory Purchase Order.
4. That the estimated costs of £9m be included in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan, to fund the Council’s original proposal to acquire the site and build a new Council owned and managed facility.
The Executive considered a report from the Executive Member for Community Services that presented the results from the formal consultation on the proposal to make improvements to Greenacres and The Stables, Gypsy and Traveller sites in Billington. A 12 week consultation had taken place on the proposals to either develop a new Council owned and managed gypsy and traveller site or to remove the existing planning permissions and replace them with new permissions and conditions. This would involve injunctions being obtained to remove any occupants on the sites that were not legally entitled to be there.
The Chairman invited the public speakers to make their statements in accordance with the Public Participation Scheme.
Mr Barr, a resident in Little Billington, was pleased that the Council had acknowledged there were issues with the sites. He felt that the funds set aside to action the proposals were extortionate and could be used to support local residents. He enquired as to where the alternative site would be located. He objected to the residents on the sites being provided with a dedicated telephone number to enable them to respond to the consultation when the residents in the villages had not been provided with the same opportunity. He also raised concerns about anti-social behaviour that occurred off the site and enquired as to how this was going to be addressed.
Mr Swain raised concerns with the amount of Council funds that had been allocated to action the proposals. It was unclear how these proposals would benefit local residents and how the Council would guarantee that the gypsy and travellers on the site would engage with the Council to improve their behaviour despite the multi-agency approach. Toddbury Farm had not been mentioned in the report and there had been no mention of an alternative site or the reduction of the travelling population in the area.
Mr Jones spoke on behalf of the residents living on the gypsy and traveller sites. He explained that the residents were keen to engage with the Council and they had set up a residents’ association. The residents’ association had started to put plans together to improve the infrastructure and resolve the problems that had been identified. Since setting up the residents’ association, there had been an improvement with community cohesion on the site and it was hoped that this would eventually lead to community cohesion off the site. Those residents on the sites that had not wanted to engage with the Council had left. He hoped that the Executive would support continued engagement with the residents living on site.
Councillor Ms Thompson, Chair of Billington Parish Council, raised concerns about the £9m that would be spent on the gypsy and travellers. This was on top of the money that had already been spent on these sites by different agencies in an effort to deal with the problems. However, it was recognised that the problems had to be addressed. The increase in the number of caravans on the sites was unsustainable. Evidence had been provided to Central Bedfordshire Council about the anti-social behaviour that had taken place. There was concern that only 5% of respondents to the consultation were residents from the site. She also raised concern that no alternative site had been allocated. She requested that a representative from Billington Parish Council and the local community be represented on the Project Board.
The Executive Member for Community Services explained that there were issues at Greenacres and The Stables that included the lack of infrastructure, planning breaches, anti-social behaviour and crime. Partners had been working together to address these issues and the proposals would need to be funded. He confirmed that an alternative location for a new site had not yet been settled on. If the problems could not be resolved the Council would apply to compulsorily purchase the two sites with a view to closing them following the development of a replacement facility. New planning permissions would also be considered as this would enable unauthorised caravans to be removed and the conditions on the site to be enforced. Toddbury Farm had received planning permission and the Council were able to enforce the conditions and any issues could be addressed. Whereas Greenacres and The Stables had been granted blanket permission from the Planning Inspectorate so the Council’s ability to enforce conditions was compromised. There had been 382 responses to the consultation, 80% of these had been from local residents. A telephone line had been installed to help the gypsy and traveller community to respond to the consultation. The Executive Member would welcome a representative from Billington Parish Council on the Project Board. The Council had a duty of care to those residents living on the sites as well as residents living in the villages. It was hoped that the residents on the sites would continue to engage with the Council and he looked forward to seeing improvements.
Reason for decision: To enable the Council to continue engagement with the residents on the sites and take robust action to bring the sites up to standard. In the event that this could not be resolved, Officers would then be in a position to bring a recommendation back to the Executive to acquire both sites using a Compulsory Purchase Order.
1. that the results from the consultation be noted;
2. to authorise the Director of Community Services to continue to co-ordinate robust action under planning, licensing, environmental health, community safety, housing and other relevant powers to bring the sites up to the following standards:
· compliant with planning and licensing regulations;
· safe and well maintained;
· well managed and accessible to the authorities.
3. that in the event that resolution 2 (above) does not bring the sites up to standard, Officers would bring a recommendation to the Executive, to acquire Greenacres and The Stables using a Compulsory Purchase Order; and
4. that the estimated costs of £9m be included in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan, to fund the Council’s original proposal to acquire the site and build a new Council owned and managed facility.
- Gypsy & Traveller Site - Billington Consultation, item 76. PDF 43 KB
- Appendix A - Billington consultation document, item 76. PDF 354 KB
- Appendix B - Consultation Questionnaire, item 76. PDF 225 KB
- Appendix C - Greenacres & The Stables Consultation Report, item 76. PDF 528 KB
- Appendix D - Billington Gypsy and Traveller Equality Impact Assessment, item 76. PDF 597 KB
- Replacement Map - Appendix A to the Greenacres & The Stables Consultation Report, item 76. PDF 120 KB