Saturday, 2 May 2009

'Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan' Meeting - 29 April

On Wednesday night, I attended a meeting in Church Lawford, arranged by Rugby Borough Council for all the parish councils in the area, to discuss their 'Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan'.

The issue of gypsy and traveller sites in Barnacle and Shilton has a long history and has provoked many strong views. I don't propose to give a history lesson, except to say that of the 14 gypsy and traveller sites in the borough of Rugby, ten are currently located within the Shilton parish area. And of those ten sites, nine have permanent planning permission (or are designated as 'tolerated' by Rugby Borough Council - in effect, the same as having planning permission) and one site has a temporary permission that expires in July 2010.

In an announcement commonly attributed to John Prescott, the Government required all councils across the country to identify the accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community in their area (the so-called 'Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment'). Councils were then required to identify where in their area they would be predisposed, in principle, to grant planning permission for sites to house this number of pitches.

Rugby Borough Council's Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment identified that an additional 60 pitches were required to provide for the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers in the area up to 2012. This was in addition to the pitches already provided for at the 14 existing sites in the borough. Of these 60 new pitches, 12 were already planned to be provided at the Council's Woodside Park site near Ryton-on-Dunsmore. That meant there was land for 48 further pitches that was needed to be identified. And that is what the Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan is currently trying to do.

The purpose of the plan is not to identify the specific land where the sites will be located, but rather to come up with a criteria against which to assess whether a gypsy and traveller site should, or should not, be given planning approval, if applied for. The application of this criteria by the Council's Planning Committee, and the Planning Inspectorate for any subsequent appeal, should give a clear indication of the areas in the borough where sites would be more likely to gain approval, as well as where they would be considered unsuitable and permission refused.

It should also be stressed that Rugby Borough Council will not be building gypsy and traveller sites at any of these locations, nor will they provide any of the 48 additional pitches that are required. It will be for gypsy and traveller families themselves, who wish to set up home in the borough, to seek to purchase land suitable for a site within the areas indicated by the Borough Council in the Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan.

The meeting itself on Wednesday night was a useful event. To its credit, Rugby Borough Council is not seeking to develop a plan that is simply imposed on parishes, and we are being given ample opportunity to have input into the development of the site location criteria. There is a recognition at the Borough Council and amongst the parish councils, that this is an important opportunity to provide for the accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community, therefore reducing the future instances of sites being developed in inappropriate locations.

There were no firm proposals arising out of the meeting, and the development of the site criteria and identification of land is an on-going process. There will be a full public consultation once the draft plan is published, including, in the summer, a public meeting in the parish for all residents to come along and have their say. I will keep you posted on this as things develop. The plan itself is expected to be finalised and become 'live' in February 2011. Despite frustrations over how long this process is taking, I am encouraged that the views expressed over many years by the Parish Council, and residents in Barnacle and Shilton, are feeding into this process and are being heard by Rugby Borough Council.


  1. Hi, I am in the process of moving to Shilton and have recently noticed the traveller gypsy sites in the village. Unfortunately for most travellers there is the stigma associated with gypsies and I would like to know if there has been any problems/trouble with the gypsy community in the village? Or if I am being unfairly harsh?

  2. First of all, thanks for leaving a comment (even if it is on a post that's over three years old!)

    The parish does have a significantly larger number of gypsy and traveller sites than any other parish in the Rugby borough area, although these are largely based on the fringes of the residential areas, rather than in the middle of either Shilton and Barnacle. This in itself has caused the parish council (and many residents) significant concern because the developments occur in the Green Belt, within which we would not wish to see any new built development.

    With regard to there being any 'trouble', the parish council is aware of complaints of anti-social behaviour attributed to gypsies and travellers, although I personally would categorise this as low level stuff, rather than significant criminality. All areas suffer from differing degrees of anti-social behaviour, and this can be caused by both the travelling and settled communities. This is true in Shilton.

    Without wishing to downplay the effect on those people unfortunate to suffer from any anti-social behaviour, I would say that Shilton would be below average with regard to its crime levels. Incidents (whether involving gypsies or not) tend to be 'one-off' events, rather than persistant problems.

    I hope this helps.