From the Northern Echo
A COUNCIL’S standards watchdog has found councillors were given incomplete information when considering the allocation of Gypsy caravan sites.
Great and Little Broughton Parish Council submitted a complaint to Hambleton District Council’s standards committee over its interpretation of how many Gypsy caravan sites were needed in the area.
Chairman of the parish council, Councillor David Ashton, claims chief planning officer Maurice Cann misinterpreted the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) when he told councillors the independent report showed there was a shortage of 14 pitches in the district.
The parish council claimed there was only a shortfall of three pitches, which have been met since publication of the report.
The standards committee found the GTAA report had been incorrectly summarised, but was satisfied Mr Cann had not deliberately misled anyone. It concluded that the omission of information amounted to maladministration by the district council.
The parish council chairman welcomed the findings.
Coun Ashton said: “The Gypsy community took part in this survey themselves and they said in 2008 they thought 14 more pitches were required.
“But then they found there was a wish by some people living on the site to move from pitches to houses and more people wanted to move off the pitches than move on to them. But members were not told that was what the survey said.”
The parish council also complained the council hadn’t closed down an unofficial Traveller site at Ings Lane in Great Broughton, despite serving enforcement notices on the site six years ago. It is believed there are enough unofficial caravans there to have met the original projected need of 14 more pitches.
Mr Cann rejected the accusations in a written response, stating he had recommended no further enforcement action be taken at Ings Lane until a planning application to build a family pitch at the site had been decided upon.
Hambleton District councillors recently refused the site planning permission.
Mr Cann said the planning inspectorate also found the need for 14 Traveller pitches in the district after studying the report.
He also hit back at an accusation by Coun Ashton that he had ‘taken a very personal interest in the unauthorised Gypsy site which has developed on Ings Lane in Great Broughton’.
Mr Cann responded: “I have no personal interest in this matter whatsoever and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
“I do however have a professional interest in the issue of Gypsies and Travellers, as required by reason of my position at the council.”