MP frustrated over gipsy-site consultation

PUBLISHED: 18:21 20 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 06 May 2010

FRUSTRATION has been vented by St Albans MP Anne Main after being told that she can t speak at a hearing looking at the number of extra gipsy pitches the district should provide. The independent panel at the Examination in Public (EiP) will be considering

FRUSTRATION has been vented by St Albans MP Anne Main after being told that she can't speak at a hearing looking at the number of extra gipsy pitches the district should provide.

The independent panel at the Examination in Public (EiP) will be considering the responses to a public consultation on gipsy numbers in the East of England this week.

The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) recommended that the St Albans district should provide an extra 33 pitches by 2011 as well as a three per cent growth in numbers until 2021.

The district already has 52 authorised pitches, which can hold up to two caravans each, but numbers could exceed 150 within 13 years if the proposals are given the go-ahead.

Mrs Main said: "It is particularly frustrating that I was not allowed to speak at the EiP. However, I hope that my written submissions will be fully taken into account by the panel, as the decisions being taken will have far reaching implications for my constituents.

"St Albans overwhelmingly declined to accept further gipsy and traveller pitches and local people know that we already have a generous provision in our area. This examination of the evidence must take on board the views of local residents, factor in our current generous provision and not just be another Government box-ticking exercise."

She added: "The consultation process has already cost local taxpayers £46,000. In my opinion, the consultation was skewed as they did not offer a "no" option and always proposed 33 extra pitches for St Albans, whichever option was selected. This cannot be right."

The EiP will start tomorrow at the Spirella Ballroom in Letchworth and will last until Friday.

Using the results of the public consultation, the panel will provide recommendations on any changes to the proposals and the Government will consult on any further changes before publishing the final policy in 2009.

The situation in Herts will be discussed on Thursday and the district council, which has objected to the proposals, will be addressing the panel.

Planning portfolio holder Chris Brazier will be making the speech in his capacity as both a district and Colney Heath parish councillor.

He said: "I will be saying that we don't need any more pitches until there is an equitable share across the county. We have already got 25 per cent of the pitches in the county here in St Albans and, if by 2011 we have 93 pitches and North Herts only have 10, we feel it is unfair. There is no proven need for the pitches.

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