COUNCIL chiefs have admitted they made fundamental errors in the consultation over controversial Gypsy and Traveller site proposals.
Cllr Herbert Manley, executive member for prosperity, told a meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s corporate scrutiny committee, there were lessons to be learnt from the way the authority passed through proposals for Gypsy and Traveller sites in and around Chester.
Cllr Manley said: “We need to strengthen the consultation process in the future.
“How to do it in the future and where we can go forward and progress to have a better consultation with the public and with members of the business community.”
The corporate scrutiny committee was considering the issue as a result of the call-in by the Labour party of the executive’s decision on November 2 to scrap Oakwood Farm, Saughall, and Buildwas Lane, Neston, from the list of six proposed sites, despite their support for the withdrawal.
A group of 15 angry business representatives and residents as well as councillors, also voiced their criticisms of the lack of consultation relating to sites in Rossfield Road, Ellesmere Port and Bumpers Lane, Chester.
Cllr Ben Powell, shadow executive member for prosperity, backed the protesters and outlined the Labour party’s opposition to the way the process to allocate the sites and to consult prior to publishing a shortlist was unacceptable.
He told the meeting that of the 1,347 sites looked at by consultants Ekosgen and council officers, just 299 permanent sites were suitable for use.
He said the process was not a good use of public funds and also brought into question how business owners, ward councillors and residents were informed about the plans.
A business owner from SC Auto Services said he had recently made a large investment in the Sealand Road Industrial Estate.
He was disgruntled he had not been informed about the proposals during the planning process for his own business.
“If you would have told me it would have made me question whether to move to the site,” he said.
Another protester said the way a report about the sites was hurried through the executive on September 7, after just six days of notification to the public, was a strange way of going about the process.
He added: “My concern is that if the executive continue in this way it is in danger of bringing the council into disrepute.”
The government requires the council to facilitate between 31 and 45 residential pitches and 10 transit pitches in the borough, as well as 10 plots for travelling showpeople, within the next four years.
The committee requested the executive looks again at the decision in the light of acknowledged weaknesses and widespread concerns in relation to the consultation process and also to improve the gipsy and traveller strategy point.
They also decided to request the executive reconsiders the decision to proceed with the four remaining sites.
The recommendation will be considered by the executive at its next meeting on February