Council listens to public feedback on proposed changes to Gypsy and Traveller sites
5 December 2017
Central Bedfordshire Council agrees to continue working with residents to address a number of health, safety and welfare issues at two Gypsy and Traveller sites in Billington.
We consulted on some options and asked for other ideas to address the ongoing and deteriorating issues at the sites. One option was to buy some land close to the existing sites, build a new Gypsy and Traveller site which would be owned and managed by the Council and then close the existing sites. The consultation also sought feedback on an option which involved changing the planning conditions on the sites. We were also open to any other ideas people had for addressing the issues.
Positive and constructive dialogue
Although there was slight majority support for the new site option there was also considerable concern about the cost of building a new site and where the money would come from.
The consultation has also opened up a very positive and constructive dialogue between us and the site residents. The residents have acknowledged that things need to change and are prepared to work with us to address the issues. Progress has already been made in terms of clarifying land ownership and residents engaging with the utility companies and our planning team to address these issues.
Today, the Executive agreed to continue to work with residents to address the issues as long as progress is being made and the sites are brought up to the required standard. The Executive, also however, agreed to continue to plan for the option to set up a new council managed site so that, if necessary this could be progressed without delay.
Greenacres and The Stables Gypsy and Traveller sites are located in Billington, Bedfordshire. These sites are privately owned. The issues include breaches of planning permissions, absence of licensing, unsafe infrastructure (sewage, clean water to site and electricity supplies), anti-social behaviour, crime and a recent history of modern day slavery.
Councillor Kevin Collins, Deputy Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of those living on the sites and those in the wider community is our primary concern but we also recognise that the cost of building a new site is a significant investment of public money.
“We are committed to addressing the issues and if this can be achieved by working with the residents on the sites then this is the best approach. We will expect to see progress on all issues though and we still have the possibility of closing these sites if necessary.”