Council plan for 16 more gipsy pitches to cost taxpayer £1.4m

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HOUSING bosses who are struggling to meet Government targets on the provision of gipsy sites have drawn up plans to spend £1.4m which will create 16 extra pitches for caravans.

Each new pitch will cost the taxpayer £90,000 with the work publicly funded through a grant from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency.

Last year, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued new guidance on accommodation for travellers, which forces councils to have a five-year “supply” of sites.

But a study carried out in Doncaster, which has a higher than average population of gipsies and travellers, has found an immediate need for 15 pitches and a projected requirement of 34 more by 2017.

Doncaster Council also estimates it will need to allocate land for 113 families of “travelling show people”, with its new strategy suggesting that private sites be encouraged.

The council’s Gypsy and Travellers Review Document says a new assessment carried out under Government rules had identified the current “unmet need” and the future requirements.

It is proposed that the £1.4m is spent as soon as possible to provide the pitches required immediately, while a longer-term plan is drawn up to ensure that Westminster rules are followed.

All of the 16 new pitches will be provided in Thorne, to the north east of Doncaster, with 10 provided at a former site which has been vandalised and six on an existing site which will be extended.

The strategy will be examined by Doncaster Council’s Regeneration and Environment Overview Panel tomorrow, before final approval is sought from Mayor Peter Davies and his cabinet nexy week.

The document says Doncaster’s gipsies and travellers make up a relatively large proportion of the population with estimates in the region of 4,000 to 6,000, around two per cent of the population.

“Current provision in Doncaster comprises four council-run sites with 49 pitches, 61 private sites with 273 pitches and 11 showmen’s sites.”

Officers say the grant from the HCA has not yet been finalised, but add that the council is “meeting regularly” with the agency in a bid to ensure the project can go ahead.

Planning permission will be required at both of the Thorne sites before work can commence on building the pitches and their associated “utility blocks”.

The authority recognises that meeting the requirement for pitches over the next five years is a bigger challenge with suitable sites difficult to come by.

A recent controversy centred on a site in Moss Croft Lane, Hatfield Woodhouse, between Doncaster and Thorne, which a private operator wants to turn into a site for travelling showman.

Residents have repeatedly campaigned against it with decisions on its development deferred on several occasions. It is expected back before the planning committee shortly.

The strategy document says: “Council officers have met and consulted with representatives for the Yorkshire region of the Showman’s Guild.

“We have met to discuss how we can work with the guild on facilitating access to grants from the HCA for them to bid on.

“The council has and will continue to work closely with the travelling community to identify suitable private land that could be made the subject of planning applications.

“The travelling community have so far struggled to find land that is available and affordable and suitable but the council’s core strategy, which has now been adopted identifies broad locations where new and extended sites could be acceptable in principle.

“Planning officers are currently preparing a development document that identifies land for a range of uses. this will include identifying the sites and approaches for unmet need.”