160 new traveller pitches for Fenland?
AS many as 160 new gypsy and traveller pitches needed in Fenland will go to the Wisbech area if the public agrees with the conclusions of a study by Fenland Council. Officials who drew up the report say consultation with gypsies and travellers suggests
AS many as 160 new gypsy and traveller pitches needed in Fenland will go to the Wisbech area if the public agrees with the conclusions of a study by Fenland Council.
Officials who drew up the report say consultation with gypsies and travellers "suggests that the rural hinterland around Wisbech should be proposed as a wide area of search for sites".
The report says: "The area has good access to the A47 whilst offering the support of the established gypsy and traveller community.
"The area offers the potential for selecting both council and privately-owned sites that are reasonably close to facilities such as schools."
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The public is being asked for their comments on the report which went before the cabinet yesterday.
It is one of a tranche of inter-connecting reports produced by Fenland Council as it shapes its Local Development Framework for the next 10-15 years.
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However, the council has been told the need for gypsy sites is urgent and that the Government insists the 160 extra pitches must be allocated by 2010.
The report says there is a need to identify provision for 160 gypsy and traveller pitches on council and privately-owned sites.
Although a Traveller Needs Survey completed this year did not identity any preferences for specific locations, low vacancy levels on existing sites and the views of travellers themselves suggested they preferred setting up new sites around Wisbech.
The report does not suggest, however, what is to be done about the 76 caravans which exist on unauthorised sites, of which 32 are "tolerated" by the council.
Councillor Fred Yeulett, deputy leader whose portfolio includes enforcement, said Fenland had an "enviable record" in dealing with travellers.
He did not anticipate the council needing to exercise legal powers to deal with the unauthorised pitches and hoped negotiations would bring about a settlement.
Fenland has four council-owned sites: at Fenland Way, Chatteris; Newbridge Lane, Wisbech; Turf Fen Bridge, Parson Drove; and Seadyke Bank, Murrow, with a total of 76 pitches and a caravan capacity totalling 172.
Across Fenland as a whole the council says that at the last count, in January, there was a total of 401 caravans on authorised and unauthorised sites.