Gipsy pitch numbers forced on district withdrawn

PRESSURE put on the district council to provide additional gipsy pitches was lifted by the new coalition Government just days before a High Court challenge was set to commence.

The Regional Spacial Strategy – under which St Albans was expected to provide a total of 52 additional pitches by 2021 – has been abolished and the power in making such decisions handed back to local authorities.

In August last year the council issued legal proceedings in the High Court against the then Secretary of State asking for those parts of the policy on gipsy pitches relating to the St Albans district to be quashed on the grounds that the increase was disproportionately high compared to other areas of the county.

There are currently 52 authorised pitches in the district – the highest number in Herts – and the council had been asked to find space for a further 28 pitches before next year and then an additional 24 before 2021, bringing the total up to 104.

St Albans district council had been preparing to challenge the figures in the High Court this week but proceedings were withdrawn following the official announcement which came in a letter to the council last week. The costs will be shared between both sides.

Planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said: “It’s been agreed by the new coalition government that gipsy and traveller pitches are no longer an issue and we will be deciding our own numbers and our own need in St Albans in the future. We already over-provide on gipsy and traveller pitches and we will continue to take that stance until there is an equitable share across the county.”

He said that the council had spent thousands – but not hundreds of thousands – fighting the last Government on the figures.