New consultation on gipsy sites launched

A Norfolk council is set to launch a second major consultation on controversial proposals for gipsy and travellers sites that could lead to a change of plans.

A Norfolk council is set to launch a second major consultation on controversial proposals for gipsy and travellers sites that could lead to a change of plans.

South Norfolk Council leader, John Fuller, said it was vital that the authority tackled the issue of unlawful gipsy and traveller sites in the district, but “no-one said it would be easy”.

And the recent consultation on proposals to create permanent settlements, in the Wymondham and Earsham areas, has identified new issues that had not been fully anticipated by the authority. Three potential alternative sites have also been put forward that need to be assessed.

“We can't just stand by and accept illegal encampments by the side of the road, so we must find a number of official sites that are controlled and contained. We have got to press on, but not to rush on at any cost.


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“Now the responses are in, it is clear that it would be wrong to simply rubber-stamp the original plan when the public have identified a number of very important issues that must be addressed,” Mr Fuller explained.

“If cabinet agrees, we will ask the council's cross-party gipsy and traveller working group to revise the criteria by which sites are assessed. That may lead to changes being recommended to our original list of sites.”

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He said the council was one of the first local authorities to tackle the issue of finding sites. It had adopted a pioneering approach using the development plan document process, and had no 'template' or well worn path to follow. A delay would allow the council to take on board lessons learnt, and give the public more opportunity to get involved.

A report, published yesterday, recommends that the council's cabinet agrees on Monday to hold a second consultation, and take a fresh look at the proposals for preferred sites at Earsham, Ketteringham and Suton, and reserve sites at Kirby Cane, Ketteringham and Spooner Row.

“I welcome the initiative, but I feel it's an awful shame that this episode wasn't handled correctly in the first place, because now the people of Kirby Cane and Ellingham are in a situation of uncertainty for another three months, which doesn't seem fair,” said parish council chairman Lawrie Cannard.

Protest petitions totalling about 600 signatures have been submitted by local residents, and villagers at Suton and Spooner Row, in the parish of Wymondham

Town mayor, Len Elston, said: “Any move towards a better conclusion is very welcome. It gives the people of Wymondham a new voice in this matter.”

South Norfolk has arranged public meetings at 7.30pm tonight at Kirby Cane Village Hall, and 7.30pm tomorrow at the Central Hall, Wymondham. Mr Fuller urged those planning to attend to read the cabinet report in advance, if possible, before giving their views.

Copies have been distributed locally, or can be downloaded from the council website at www.south-norfolk.gov.uk

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