Clarifying traveller situation
FOLLOWING the extraordinary shambles regarding the selection of travellers sites within South Holland, I feel I must write to put your readers in the picture. During the past fortnight Councillor Simon Booth and I called two public meetings in Sutton Bri
FOLLOWING the extraordinary shambles regarding the selection of travellers' sites within South Holland, I feel I must write to put your readers in the picture.
During the past fortnight Councillor Simon Booth and I called two public meetings in Sutton Bridge and Long Sutton. They were attended by about 570 people. Those present were appalled at the process for site selection upon which the District Council had embarked.
The criteria used have not been understood, and perhaps it is no surprise that the exact conditions under which the (few) members were working are still unclear.
When three sites were selected it turned out that two of them were identified as being served by mains drainage (untrue in both cases) and that the third site is owned by Anglian Water, which as a utility is one of the few bodies which can prevent a compulsory purchase order if it needs land for future use.
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Immediately opposite one of the sites there has been a highly relevant planning refusal on the very grounds which the council were attempting to circumvent.
I note the recommendation to disband the council's task group, and can only stress that such a decision would be wise.
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Less than 24 hours after the reconvened council meeting, scheduled for yesterday, the first meeting of the Local Development Framework Working party is scheduled to take place. That will be the successor to the District Plan. Much the safest, most transparent and accountable way to deal with this matter would be to refer the whole subject for reconsideration under that process, which would ultimately be tested by public consultation and proper examination.
The people of Long Sutton, Little Sutton and Sutton Bridge have, as so often in the past, left the council in no doubt whatsoever about their views of the shambolic process so far.
I have even been criticised for not being critical enough of the council's handling of the matter.
It will take very clear, direct and accountable methods of decision making from here on, before even a semblance of confidence is restored to those and other communities in the district.
What about the rights of the travellers already on sites obtained by them at their own expense?
I have reminded people over the years that councillors can, by themselves, do very little. If residents stand strongly together, and demand better procedures and decisions, we can move mountains.
My heartfelt thanks to the people of Little Sutton, Long Sutton, Sutton Bridge, Lutton, Tydd and Gedney who turned out on wet winter nights in such enormous numbers to send a clear signal to South Holland District Council that such unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated in the 21st century.
CLLR CHRIS BREWIS
(District and County Councillor)