Outrage after “unsuitable” gyspy site plan submitted

Outline of the traveller camp. Photo: Google

Outline of the traveller camp. Photo: Google

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Controversial plans have been submitted to build a travellers’ site for six static caravan pitches on land in Burnley.

The plan, which also includes room for one additional touring van, plus a replacement dwelling would be created on land at Spa Wood Farm, Billington Road, if it is passed.

The proposal to build this on land, which in no way meets the Government’s suitability criteria, makes no sense at all to me.

Hapton with Park Coun. Joanne Greenwood

However, the application has reignited a long-running dispute about the siting of such a development on this spot dating back to 2014 when it was first identified as a possible location at the Issues and Options Stage of Burnley’s Emerging Local Plan.

Burnley MP Julie Cooper has expressed concerns about the plan.

She said: “I have been approached by a number of extremely anxious constituents who simply cannot understand why this issue has come to light yet again, despite the fact that the Spa Wood Farm site no longer features on the Local Development Plan.

“Years of negotiation at great expense, time and effort have been undertaken to find a more suitable site following the outcry which ensued when the site was first proposed several years ago.

“I fully understand that the council is obliged to consider all applications in accordance with planning regulations only, but I can see no sense in a development like this going ahead when it is far larger than required and in an unsuitable location.

“I intend to make representation to the council asking them to limit any development for this purpose to that which is identified in the local plan, although I am not fully convinced that any traveller site is necessary in our town.”

The Housing Act of 2004 placed a duty on local authorities to produce assessments of accommodation needs for gypsies and travellers, in an attempt to reverse poor health and low levels of educational attainment among travellers and reduce tensions and ill-feeling between the settled and travelling communities.

In response to this, Burnley and Pendle Councils commissioned the Salford Housing and Urban Studies Unit to produce a Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Assessment in 2012.

This survey suggested that a total of 28 pitches were required and the land at Spa Wood was one of the sites initially proposed.

In 2015, changes to the planning policy for traveller sites which redefined the terms “gypsies” and “travellers” for planning purposes, resulted in the known number of pitches required in Burnley being reduced to just five in total.

Consequently the Spa Wood Farm site was dropped from the Local Development Plan in favour of a smaller site in Daneshouse and Stoneyholme.

Despite this, a private planning application has now been submitted by the owner of Spa Wood Farm to develop the site as a traveller camp anyway.

Hapton with Park Coun. Joanne Greenwood said: “I have objected to the building of a traveller site on this land at every opportunity since the possibility was first raised and I will continue to do so.

“The proposal to build this on land, which in no way meets the Government’s suitability criteria, makes no sense at all to me.

“Far from being in close proximity to services such as schools, medical services and local amenities, this land is accessed via an industrial estate and private farmland. It is clearly unsuitable and many residents in the ward I was elected to represent are of the same opinion.”