Moves to add more travellers' pitches

Moves to add another 1,200 permanent travellers pitches across East Anglia have moved another step forward as a second public consultation on the plans came to an end.

Moves to add another 1,200 permanent travellers pitches across East Anglia have moved another step forward as a second public consultation on the plans came to an end.

Across Norfolk, where 156 more are planned before 2011, some councils are actively seeking sites, while others feel it is a waste of public money because there is no proven need.

Most district councils are being asked to find another 15 pitches, but the numbers are higher in some areas, such as King's Lynn and West Norfolk which needs another 53 and South Norfolk is earmarked for another 28.

The government says changes to gipsy and traveller provision is aimed at reducing the �18m annual bill for taking action against unauthorised sites.

Communities minister Sadiq Khan said it would stop the “vicious cycle of evictions” from unauthorised sites that was not only costly but also impacted on the quality of life for the travelling community and the wider public.

The authorised sites would also see the traveller residents responsible for paying council tax, rent and utility bills, like the settled community.

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Only 1,140 of the 4,229 gipsy and traveller caravans in the region are currently on authorised sites, so 48 councils across the east are being allocated at least another 15 pitches through a regional planning blueprint.

King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough council had accepted the 53 suggested pitches, which was in line with its own needs research, and was currently looking at a mixture of new sites and whether unauthorised ones were suitable for being made official, said strategic housing and community safety manager Duncan Hall.

South Norfolk Council has just finished an eight week public consultation to find three permanent gipsy and traveller sites with six to eight places on each.

They identified nine potential sites earlier this year on the A11, A47 and A143 corridors and are set to narrow down their options by the end of June.

But among those opposing the travellers strategy is North Norfolk, where a previous study to find the best locations for two transit travellers sites - due to be opened at Cromer and Fakenham next year - threw up evidence that there was not a need for any permanent site, as travellers only passed through briefly, and did not settle in the area for work.

The district council said it would be wrong to take a different approach to the settled community, whose new housing had to demonstrate need, and was concerned how permanent sites could be justified to local people and could result in “community tension.”

Parish councils are also adding their voice to the latest consultation is Aylmerton near Cromer, which was previously involved in protesting about a planned transit site in its patch.

Chairman John Rampling said the idea of spreading the sites across the region was flawed, because they needed to be in areas where travellers stayed, such as the Fens and Essex, because of work.

“Why does the government want to build a permanent site in North Norfolk, at enormous cost and when the country is in a dire financial situation, if there is no proven need?”

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