Return to drawing board over travellers
This week B&NES Council's Liberal Democrat Cabinet meets to decide what move to make next in its gypsy and traveller sites allocation plan.
Unfortunately, there are no indications that the council is really getting to grips with the mess it has created.
The Liberal Democrats' shambolic handling of the search for appropriate traveller sites has seen the council turn then U-turn again. First they proposed several sites which are wholly unsuitable and do not accord with government policy. Then the Lib Dems said they were withdrawing three of these sites, then the council backtracked on this. To try and bring some semblance of order to this debacle, B&NES is now planning what it has termed a 'stock take' of the situation, in which the previously proposed sites will be reassessed against a new set of criteria, alongside 27 new sites which have come forward.
Recognising that it got its previous site assessments wrong is a necessary and welcome first step. Drawing up a new set of criteria which better accord which national planning policy is something Conservative councillors urged the Lib Dems to do months ago.
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However, it is clear that B&NES has still not learned from all its previous mistakes.
It has published a raw list of 27 new possible sites without any prior assessment of their viability, some of which are simply not even available to use, causing further anguish amongst residents in the process.
The council is also still facing a judicial review launched by residents impacted by its proposed sites in Radstock, Stanton Wick and Keynsham.
There is also a question of whether the Council is able to reassess its previously proposed six sites without also looking again at the other seventeen sites it had initially rejected.
It is therefore clear that this so-called 'stock take' will not be enough to resolve this botched process. The Lib Dems need to call a full halt to their current plans and go back to the drawing board to restart the whole process properly.
Until they do, council time and taxpayers' money will continue to be wasted, and local residents, business and the travelling community will continue to be the ones to suffer from these flawed plans.
COUNCILLOR GEOFF WARD Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning