Friday, 2 September 2016

Proposed sites for Gypsy, Travellers & Showmen across Cheshire West & Chester Council

Gypsy and Travellers Site Proposals by CWaC

The first thing to say here is that there is a statutory obligation for Local Authorities to provide a suitable number of sites (made up of set numbers of individual pitches) to allow Gypsies, Travellers and Showmen to reside in their caravans.

Under section 8 of the Housing Act 1985 local authorities are required to consider the various accommodation needs of the local population. The Housing Act 2004 and Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 states councils should assess housing need for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople in the same way they do for people in settled communities. This legislation has an overarching aim of ensuring that members of Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople communities have equal access to decent and appropriate accommodation options equal to each and every other member of society. For a number of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople, appropriate housing means designated sites rather than “bricks and mortar” housing. The Secretary of State recommended that various methods of securing provision should be utilised and these include using rural exceptions site policies, through affordable housing provision on land allocated for housing development and through individual planning applications.

These sites should be both suitable from a user’s perspective and from the communities about them within which they would begin integrate. The needs of the site users are complex and are paramount to the sites being successful. Identifying ways of raising educational aspirations and attainment of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, along with ways to improve the health outcomes and improving knowledge of how Gypsies and Travellers engage with services that in turn provide a gateway to work opportunities are important goals.

There is an identified need for CWaC to provide 42 additional pitches across the Borough up to 2028.

Labour run CWaC have released a report prepared for the council, by consultants WYG Planning, in to the future provision of sites across the Borough. WYG have completed three separate sifts of the potential sites (sites as opposed to individual pitches) and have arrived at a final list of 26 preferred sites. These sites have been RAG colour coded by their ease and likelihood of success in terms of delivering the required number of pitches.

There are three categories of site:

Transit sites which are used to provide only temporary accommodation for their residents. Lengths of stay can vary but are usually set at between 28 days and three months. Permanent sites are sites for residential use by Gypsies and Travellers for stays in excess of three months and are intended to provide residents with a more permanent home. Travelling Show Persons’ Yards (or plots) are mixed-use plots used by travelling show people that include residential provision and may need to also incorporate space to allow for the storage of equipment associated with circuses, fairs and shows. The sites are comprised of ‘individual pitches’ and these vary in number site by site. Transit sites and permanent sites will accommodate a number of pitches. A ‘pitch’ provides accommodation for a traveller family and typically includes space for two caravans with a utility block and car parking.

The 26 “preferred” sites are located in the following wards across CWaC:

Winnington and Castle (Lab), Elton (Lab), Witton and Rudheath (Lab),

Farndon (Con), Tarporley (Con), Davenham and Moulton (Con), Gowy (Con), Shakerley (Con), Tattenhall (Con), Malpas (Con), Ledsham & Manor (Con), Tarvin & Kelsall (Con).

Two of the preferred sites in the report are in my ward here in Tarvin, site No 22 at Church View Fm (RAG Status Red) and site No 23 at Small Holding No 10, Tarporley Rd (RAG Status Amber). Church View Fm is currently assessed as Red due to “Narrow lane, difficult access, farmhouse next to site would have amenity impacted, open land, isolated from services. Need to understand wider residential growth aspirations promoted by Parish Council”. It would be reasonable to assume that this site is unlikely to be progressed forward at any speed at this stage. Small Holding no 10 is a different matter, currently assessed as Amber with the following summary: “Potential for a small permanent site in one preferable location in NW of site on Tarporley Road. Sensitive setting (conservation area, setting of church, landscape character, amenity of existing houses) so needs good screening and careful siting. Access possible. Narrow tracks prevent land to rear being used. Very close to services.” The land here is in the ownership of CWaC and importantly the report goes on to say that such sites which are possible on council owned land should be viewed as ‘quick wins’ (para 3.34 YPG Report) in relation to delivery.

So there is a very real potential for a site to be brought forward here in Tarvin to a future planning application.

The site plan below shows the area of land owned by CwaC and forms part of Small Holding No 10 (site 23 in the report). The proposal currently suggests using the North Western corner of the plan which is between the lane and the small holding.

You may have comments and concerns either for or against such a proposal as we have here as part of the Local Plan consultation. It is important to distinguish the difference between this consultation and any future formal Planning Application. This is your opportunity to comment on the ‘Policy’ being made here around the councils long term future approach to planning matters. It is not a planning application at this stage, that would likely follow if this proposal in the Local Plan is agreed.

The important thing is that you have an opportunity to make your views heard at this stage and any future stage. This is where the plot thickens. If our CWaC council is the open transparent and respectful one it claims to be you would expect the consultation process to be reflective of that stated approach to “doing business”. Feel free to draw your own conclusion from the following.

The only consultees to date, mentioned in the report prepared by WYG Planning, are Alison Heine (Planning Consultant working with Gypsies and Travellers) and Planning Aid. However in fairness to the consultants they do recommend to CWaC that they should undertake further consultation with “representatives of the Gypsy and Traveller community to seek their views on the preferred sites” and “engagement should also be pursued with local Ward Members, Parish/Town Councils and any Neighbourhood Plan groups whose area includes any of the site options”  the report goes on to say (on p52) “It will be important to ‘manage’ this consultation and to try and seek consensus, or at least to ‘minimise objections’, in order to allocate and deliver these sites.”

That may well be why the consultation process for the proposed Gypsy & Traveller Sites appears to be buried towards the end of the snappily entitled “Local Plan (Part Two) Land Allocations and Detailed Policies - Preferred Approach”.

This consultation process is open from the 12 August - 23 September 2016, if you do not get any comments in by this deadline they are unlikely to be included.

To save you trawling through the numerous links and headings to find the appropriate section I have attached the link below, feel free to try and locate it via the second one if you have the time and inclination.

If you do wish to comment you may want to reiterate some of the comments I noted down from the large number of Tarvin residents who attended the Parish Council meeting on Mon the 22nd of Aug 2016 that I also spoke at.

Value for money: is this best return on the land the council is able to generate on our behalf as tax payers.

This land is currently identified and has developers currently interested in bring it forward for residential use: will a permanent Gypsy & Traveller site have a negative impact on the future resident’s amenity?

Part of any residential development on this side of Tarporley Rd is likely to bring additional open space, village car parking and sports facilities with it: will the proposed site have a negative impact on this resource.

The proposed piece of land is one of the lowest topographically in the whole village and is prone to flooding in heavy rain: would this be suitable land to accommodate caravans.

The water course which runs alongside the proposed site is prone to blocking and causing flooding; how would the council propose top stop this becoming blocked by rubbish and general waste; who would pay for this water course to be cleaned and maintained.

Both Tarporley and Christleton schools are full to capacity; where would the Gypsy & Traveller children go to school if this is the case.

Getting people in to full time regular work is a key objective: there is little or no additional employment in the rural areas.

Gypsy & Traveller families often require regular and comprehensive social care and support: there is little of this in rural areas and other sites closer to services would be better suited to assisting in the delivery of such support.

The general guidance below is general guidance for anyone who might want to comment on the broader issues of the Local Plan part two, many of these may also be applicable if you are commenting on the proposed Gypsy & Traveller sites.

Matters which planners can take into account include:

1. Amenity: impact on neighbours – whether the site could have a potentially harmful impact in terms of overlooking, loss of daylight, overbearing impact, noise and disturbance, etc.

2. Visual impact – would a site be in keeping with the surrounding area or would there be unacceptable landscape harm?

3. Highways: suitability of access, parking, manoeuvring space, effect of traffic generation.

4. Policies - are there any Government policies or policies in the Local Plan which are relevant e.g. sustainability of location, countryside / landscape protection, high quality agricultural land, flooding, wildlife / protected species etc

5. Availability of land – are the sites going to come forward for that purpose?

6. Alternative sites - based on the above considerations are there better sites available?

Matters which planners cannot take into account include:

1. The intended user of the development – it is the use, not the user, which is important.

2. Whether the applicant or landowner is known/unknown, liked/disliked, trusted/not trusted, local/not local.

3. The right to a view over another person’s land (there is no such right in planning terms).

4. Impact on property values.

5. Any comment considered racist or offensive.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Hugo, really informative, it will be interesting to see and hear what happens at Monday night's meeting. I'm sure there will be a huge turnout of residents if the last meeting was anything to go by.