Gipsy pitches demand
AN ANGRY district council is demanding a place at a meeting to examine the results of a consultation about the number of extra gipsy pitches to be provided locally. An Examination in Public (EiP) will be held in October in which a panel of planning inspec
AN ANGRY district council is demanding a place at a meeting to examine the results of a consultation about the number of extra gipsy pitches to be provided locally.
An Examination in Public (EiP) will be held in October in which a panel of planning inspectors will decide if EERA's (East of England Regional Assembly) recommendation that the St Albans district should provide 33 extra gipsy pitches by 2011 is acceptable.
The district already has 52 authorised pitches which can hold up to two caravans each.
At last week's council cabinet meeting, councillors agreed that they would demand a seat at the EiP to put the council's case against the extra pitches as robustly as possible.
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The Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, will make her decision next year on whether or not to endorse EERA's recommendations after hearing the results of the EiP.
The district council will also be making clear their objections, which were agreed at the cabinet meeting, in their response to the planning inspectorate ahead of the EiP.
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The main argument in the letter will be that the district has proactively provided more pitches than any other in Herts but still EERA's proposed targets give St Albans the highest totals in the county.
The council also disagrees with the proposed three per cent growth in the number of gipsy pitches in the district until 2021 because they do not feel the recommendation is based on evidence nor do they believe any further assessments on future targets should be carried out before 2011.
If the growth proposal is endorsed, then the district would end up having a total of 114 additional pitches in the next 13 years.
Lastly, the council will argue in their letter that the redistribution of growth in gipsy pitches from Fenland, South Cambridgeshire, Basildon and Chelmsford across the whole region is unfair, especially to Herts.
The council's representative on EERA has previously voted against the assembly's proposals and supported an amendment which recognised the Green Belt development constraints of districts in the region like St Albans, near London.
At the Cabinet meeting, Planning Portfolio Holder Cllr Chris Brazier said they were not saying they didn't want any more gipsy pitches but that they objected to the way EERA had arrived at the recommendations.
They had not given the council a "proven need" for the increase and had not worked out the distribution of pitches equitably.