Friday, 5 July 2013

Public meeting to vent views over Earl Shilton Travellers' site - Warwickshire

From the Hinckley Times

A CONTROVERSIAL decision by the borough council to allow a permanent Travellers’ site to be set up on an Earl Shilton flood plain has left residents feeling “angry” and “let down”, claim Conservative members.


A public meeting is to be held tomorrow night, Friday July 5 at Earl Shilton Conservative Club, at 7.30pm, for people to air their concerns about the plans for Dalebrook Farm, and to consider ways of fighting the decision.

The borough council’s own Conservative group, which voted against the scheme, has lodged a formal complaint to the borough council about the way the application was dealt with.

Townspeople anxious about the proposal to put 10 permanent pitches - accommodating 20 Travellers’ caravans - on the Leicester Road site, packed the public gallery of the borough council’s new hub to hear the planning committee approve the scheme last week.

More people, unable to fit in the chamber, crowded into the new council reception to watch and listen to the meeting on a screen link.

Many are expected to attend tomorrow’s meeting, which is being co-ordinated by Earl Shilton’s Conservative borough councillors Richard Allen, Janice Richards and Chris Ladkin, together with the council’s Conservative group leader, Groby councillor Peter Batty.

Cllr Batty told The Hinckley Times: “We have three Conservative councillors in Earl Shilton who all feel very, very angry and let down by the council in the way this has been handled.”

Cllr Janice Richards said: “Everyone came out (of the planning meeting) absolutely shocked.

“As councillors we are here to look after the people who live here and people feel that as a town we are not being treated fairly.”

Earl Shilton councillors believe there should have been greater public consultation about the proprosals in advance of the meeting.

They are particularly worried about putting caravans, which are to be used as permanent homes, on a site that falls within a flood alleviation zone - a concern shared by Blaby District Council, Peckleton Parish Council and Thurlaston Parish Council, which all questioned the situation in advance of the borough council meeting.

Borough council officers say they carried out full, prior consultation on the scheme “in line with planning law”.

A borough council spokesman said: “The council posted a site notice and informed people living on and near the site, Earl Shilton town council, all the relevant statutory organisations - including Leicestershire County Council and the Environment Agency - giving all consultees the required 21 days notice.”

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for designating and monitoring flood zones, was consulted but raised no objection to the plans.

The borough council’s own core strategy, which covers the provision of sites for Gypsies, Travellers and travelling Showpeople, says that planning permission will only be granted where the site is “appropriate to provide a safe and healthy environment for residents”.

Earl Shilton councillors claim that putting pitches available for families with young children on a site known to be liable to flood is a health and safety issue.

A borough council spokesman said that the pitches themselves would be sited away from areas known to be a flood risk, although a section of the access road would fall within that area.

Cllr Richards said: “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

• THE BOROUGH council has agreed to provide 42 residential pitches for Gypsies and Travellers between 2006 and 2016, under the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Gypsies and Travellers Accommodation Needs Assessment.

There is currently a shortfall of 29 permanent pitches within the borough. A council report states: “Approval of this application would go towards meeting the current shortfall in pitches and will significantly improve the access to services such as health and education for any families residing on the site and will provide a more stable environment for their children’s development.”

Schools and GP surgeries within Earl Shilton were not, however, consulted in advance of the application.

A borough council spokesman said: “Schools and local GPs were not approached for their views on this application. This is only required for planning applications for larger developments.”

As permanent residents, Travellers living on the site will be liable to pay council tax.

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