Doubts over Wymondham gipsy site

Fresh doubts were cast over the delivery of two new gipsy and traveller sites in south Norfolk last week after a district council's plans were put on ice.

Fresh doubts were cast over the delivery of two new gipsy and traveller sites in south Norfolk last week after a district council's plans were put on ice.

A planning inspector raised 'serious concerns' about the suitability of South Norfolk Council's proposals for permanent pitches in Wymondham and Earsham, near Bungay, last month.

The local authority confirmed that its gipsy and traveller development plan document (DPD) examination had been suspended for three weeks following a series of questions posed by the Planning Inspectorate.

The suspension of the process will give South Norfolk Council officers more time to seek the advice of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and hold discussions with Goff Petroleum over plans for an eight pitch site next to the oil company's fuel storage depot in Stanfield Road, Wymondham.

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The district council has been urged to consider its 'next steps', which also includes plans to house gipsy and travellers between a pig farm and scaffolding firm in Old Harleston Road at Earsham.

The concerns come after inspector Simon Emerson said he had doubts about the compatibility of a residential development next to the Goff Petroleum fuel depot on the edge of Wymondham, which is planning to expand. He added that there would be 'no purpose' in pursuing a public examination if it was undermined by HSE advice.

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Following a meeting with council officers on Monday , Mr Emerson added that both the Wymondham and Earsham sites had 'unwilling landowners' and it was 'questionable' whether there was justification to compulsory purchase the two areas of land.

Questions have also been raised about the authority's site selection criteria, which has whittled down more than 80 locations over the last three years.

Opposition councillors last month called on the Tory administration to go back to the drawing board.

But Derek Blake, cabinet member for planning, housing and the built environment, said the council remained 'positive' that its proposals were achievable.

'We believe the inspector has misinterpreted government policy in insisting sites are placed inside or very close to existing communities. That goes particularly against the views of thousands of residents and if consultation is to have any meaning, we must listen to our community.'

'The inspector is concerned about the deliverability of our proposals, and in our view is this change of siting was implemented, the proposals would certainly not be deliverable. We ask residents to bear with us while we take stock and consider the appropriate way forward,' he said.

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