York's first Local Plan for 70 years delayed due to concerns over provisions for Travellers

The adoption of the City of York Council’s Local Plan will be delayed due to concerns over provision for Travellers.

York hasn’t had a Local Plan since 1954, a legal document that sets out a vision and a framework for the future development of an area.

A letter written to a senior City of York Council director read that a planning application for 139 homes on land to the east of Millfield industrial estate in Main Street, Wheldrake, should be allocated two pitches for Travelling communities.

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“But, as we understand the situation, the council’s decision means that no pitches will be provided on it,” the letter from Local Plan inspectors Simon Berkeley and Paul Griffiths read.

Mark Warters. Image credit: York PressMark Warters. Image credit: York Press
Mark Warters. Image credit: York Press

The council has said the provision would be secured elsewhere.

However, there are concerns that this would mean more pitches at sites in Osbalwick or Clifton, which Coun Mark Warters – who has acted as a mouthpiece for Travellers within the council – has argued are already at capacity.

The letter goes on to read: “We are concerned about the effect this will have on the overall supply and delivery of pitches required to meet the identified need. It also raises questions about the effectiveness of the policy relating to the draft allocation, and others like it proposed for other allocations in the plan.”

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Inspectors have asked for a hearing to take place as soon as possible.

Neil Ferris, the council’s corporate director of place, to whom the letter was directed, said: “We recognise the Local Plan inspectors have raised additional questions about how we intend to respond to the housing needs of our Gypsy and Traveller residents.

“They have asked that another public hearing take place and so we’re arranging for this to happen soon. We also recognise the Local Plan’s adoption will be delayed until this process has taken place.

“The council welcomes the opportunity to explore the concerns that have been raised with developers, York Travellers Trust, interested parties and the inspectors at the inquiry and as necessary to find solutions that will support the earliest possible adoption of York’s Local Plan and meet its housing obligations for York’s Gypsy and Traveller residents.”

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Coun Warters said: “Despite knowing full well the Osbaldwick site was not suitable for further expansion or indeed, as is being acknowledged now, not suitable for continued occupation, senior City of York Council officers ignored the concerns expressed over many years by York Travellers Trust and myself both in writing and at the Local Plan inquiry.

“The City of York Council stance on Gypsy and Traveller provision is flawed and likely to lead to the whole Local Plan failing the test of soundness.

“In which case those responsible need to be held fully to account which is a point I’ve made at a number of council meetings.”

Coun Darryl Smalley, York’s Liberal Democrat spokesperson for housing, said: “We are disappointed at yet more delays to the adoption of the Local Plan, which was submitted to the government for inspection almost six years ago.

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“We hope that the steps the council is making to solve the issues surrounding the housing provision for the Gypsy and Traveller community will finally mean that we can get approval by the inspectors to pass the Local Plan.”

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