From the Somerset Guardian
Plots of land at Radstock, Camerton and Stanton Wick have been identified as possible Travellers' sites.
Council chiefs have pinpointed seven possible locations for authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers amid concern that the area has none at the moment.
he past decade has seen about 20 unauthorised encampments in Bath and North East Somerset, which have angered neighbours and left taxpayers with a clearing-up bill.
A meeting on May 9 will discuss a draft consultation programme looking at the seven sites, not all of which would be finally chosen.
The sites are:
The former Radstock Infant School canteen (two permanent pitchers).
The Daglands open space at Camerton, which could accommodate nine permanent pitches
Old colliery buildings at Stanton Wick (15 permanent and five transit)
Land near Twerton Woods at Lower Bristol Road, where 15 transit places could be established
Land near Ellsbridge House at Keynsham (six permanent)
Land at Woollard Lane, Whitchurch (two permanent)
Station Road, Newbridge (one travelling Showmen's yard).
B&NES said that setting up formal pitches will strengthen its hand when it comes to dealing with illegal occupations and mean that users have to pay council tax.
It points out that it is the only authority in the west of England without official pitches and that once Bristol City Council established proper pitches, its annual enforcement costs plummeted from £200,000 to £5,000.
In all, it reckons it needs 22 permanent pitches, 20 transit pitches and one yard for fair operators – known as travelling Showmen.
A spokesman said: "These sites have the potential to deliver significantly higher numbers of pitches above the level of need. This allows the opportunity for open debate about where people think are the most suitable locations. No final decisions on which locations will be used have been taken."
Vice-chairman of the council's housing and major projects panel councillor Steve Hedges (Lib Dem, Odd Down) said: "I am pleased that the council is at last tackling this issue. This is the right thing to do. It will help us tackle the problems caused by illegal pitches and it will mean that the council is addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.
"Gypsies and Travellers are frequently victims of racism and discrimination and are often unable to access services such as schools for their children and healthcare."
The proposals have already drawn strong reactions from visitors in Stanton Wick.
At the weekend villagers held a meeting with MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to voice their concerns and a further meeting for residents has been planned for May 2 at 7.30pm in Stanton Drew village hall.
Concerns have also been raised by Tory councillors that some of the pitches been identified are in greenbelt areas even though the Government has specified that they should not be used as travellers' sites.
Councillor Francine Haeberling, B&NES Conservative Group leader, said: "We're concerned that the council has rushed out these proposals without taking account of the new Government guidelines published in recent weeks.
"Councils no longer have to abide by top-down Government targets for allocating Gypsy and Traveller sites, and can instead decide upon local need and work with neighbouring authorities to share the allocation.
"It appears that B&NES is not looking to work with our neighbouring authorities or review our area's local needs in light of this.
"Crucially, the Government's new guidance also explicitly states that Traveller sites should be considered inappropriate development in the greenbelt, so we are very surprised that the B&NES proposals include greenbelt sites.
"Clearly the council needs to search for Traveller sites in order to protect against unauthorised pitches. This is something which all political parties have struggled to do since B&NES was created in 1996. However, if the allocation process is botched, or residents do not feel they are given a proper say, this could cause greater difficulty for the authority."
Conservatives have also questioned how much each Traveller pitch will cost, who will be expected to pay for the pitches, and how much council tax the council expects to collect from each.
After the council cabinet discuss the locations on May 9, there will be an eight-week consultation period, and the final list drawn up after a further meeting in December.
For more information visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/planningfortravellers.