Agenda item

Breckland Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Needs Assessment 2013 (Agenda item 12)

Report of Mark Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development.

 

Due to its size, a limited number of paper copies of the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTAA) will be available at the meeting.   

 

Cabinet Members are asked to bring their paper copies of the GTAA document to the meeting.

 

The GTAA is also available on the Members’ Page on the Intranet. 

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development presented the report which advised Members of the outcomes from the 2013 Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA).

 

Members were reminded that this GTAA was a consultation document and would be open for discussion over the next 18 months.  It was also a picture of where the Council was at and where it could be in the future. 

 

The Senior Enabling and Projects Officer (Strategic Planning) was in attendance and drew Members’ attention to the table on page 43 of the report that highlighted the need for pitches and explained in detail the meanings of these figures and how they had been derived.  He also highlighted the pitches with permissions that had not, as yet, been delivered.  Members’ attention was also drawn to the figures on page 75 of the GTAA document that highlighted the accommodation and pitch need for 2017/18 to 2023/27 that had been calculated from household growth.

 

The Deputy Planning Manager was also in attendance and advised that future pitch need was key and pointed out that the figures that had been derived were different to those that had been previously reported in the Spatial Strategy; however, the overall picture for the Breckland district was not all that different.  Page 95 of the GTAA document identified the implications on ‘broad areas of search’ for future provision and from this there was not a clear picture as to where the need was going to arise.  The assessment for options for identifying broad areas of search to meet future need could impact on the Local Plan process.

 

It was noted that travelling show peoples’ needs were different and showed that there was no net need for such pitches.

 

The Deputy Planning Manager was confident that this GTAA document could be taken through the new Local Plan process.

 

Councillor Claussen had grave concerns about the document and thought that it was quite naïve, lacked effective community engagement and let down the people of Mattishall.  He reminded Members that Mattishall had gone out of its way to have no further growth in the village. He then referred to section 13.6 of the report and highlighted the fact that the one stakeholder that had clearly been missed from the consultation was the public.

 

Many of the non-Cabinet Members in attendance were also very disappointed in the lack of communication.  They all agreed that there had certainly not been any emphasis given to dialogue with the settled community or to Elected Members.

 

There was much debate about policy and site locations and how near the towns theses sites should be.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Commission Chairman concurred with the aforementioned views and asked if the new EU immigration figures had been taken into account and, if not, would increase in demand for such sites be anticipated?  Councillor Borrett drew Members’ attention to the reasons for recommendation as set out at section 11 of the report and asked if this document would be used to formulate a policy. 

 

The Executive Member for Corporate Services and Quality Assurance stated that a consultation strategy had been developed as part of the Local Development Framework and he asked if this strategy was still relevant and whether it had been followed.

 

Councillor Joel asked if Officers had spoken to South Norfolk District Council to see where its gypsy and traveller sites had been located in their Local Plan.

 

Councillor Martin knew there would always be contentious issues on such a subject but Council’s had to consult with these communities and work with them.

 

The Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development advised that all issues, concerns would be taken forward and discussed.  In response to the question about immigration, Members were informed that these numbers were not yet known so it would be unfair to include them in this document.  He pointed out, however, that the GTAA would be revised every 5 years so there would be further opportunities to include any additional figures then.  The Executive Member also drew attention to the section in the report about Stakeholders/Consultation and stressed that such consultation had been carried out in accordance with the requirements under the Duty to Cooperate.  He agreed that there needed to be some policy in place which would actually be over and above planning via the Local Plan process otherwise he was quite content to accept the document on face value taking account of all the comments made.

 

The Chairman had listened to all concerns raised and agreed that further consultation was needed with the settled community and Ward Members before this document could be accepted.

 

The Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development advised that if consultation was carried out with the settled community at this stage no-one would choose to have a travelling community nearby.  He emphasised the fact that the Council had been duty bound to carry out the stakeholders consultation in this way and also emphasised the fact that the policy itself would be subject to public consultation within the Local Plan.

 

Councillor Claussen felt that this was a disaster waiting to happen as the consultation methodology that had been carried out would not be well received by the public.  He knew the Council was up against it as it was an Act of Parliament that had to be followed but keeping settled communities ‘in the dark’ was not, in his opinion, good representation.  He said that if he was able to vote he would not be voting in favour of the document going forward even if it cost the Council more money to go back and carry out proper consultation.

 

The Executive Member for Finance and Democratic Services felt that if proper consultation had not been carried out then the document was incorrect.  She asked how it could be made more acceptable.  In response, the Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development advised that section 13.6 of the report concentrated on the Duty to Co-operate otherwise the document could be found unsound in the Local Plan.  The Duty to Co-operate did not include local, settled communities.  Councillor Claussen drew attention to section 2.9 (A) of the GTAA document which stated: “Pay particular attention to early and effective community engagement with both settled and traveller communities…….”.  Breckland Council, in his opinion, had clearly failed to do this.  He also drew attention to the supplementary guidance that almost put a duty on local councils to have effective communication. 

 

Councillor Williams agreed with the above concerns and knew that the public perception of this document would be the same.

 

The Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development again stressed that the Council had to produce such a report of where it thought the travellers should go and there was no remit to consult outside of the gypsy and traveller communities.  Experts had been appointed to look at accommodation and travelling needs for gypsies and travellers across the Breckland District, the public would be able to have their say through the policy stages via the Local Plan Working Group meetings.  Additionally, an opportunity for all Members to have their say would be at the Visioning session which was scheduled to take place on Monday, 27 January 2014 at Elizabeth House.

 

The Chairman proposed an amendment to the recommendation as the document in its present format was not acceptable.  The Overview and Scrutiny Commission Chairman agreed and also recommended some alternative wording in the report.

 

The Chief Executive suggested that the recommendation to consider the contents of the report and accept option 1 to allow the GTAA to go forward and be used in the formation of future policy be replaced with: Members’ consider the contents of the report and accept option 1 (see report) to allow the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTAA) to go forward and to be considered in further detail, paying specific attention to wider consultation at the Local Plan Visioning Day session on 27 January 2014 to which all Members have been invited.

 

Option 1

 

Members consider the contents of the report and accept to allow the findings to be used to inform future policy.

 

Option 2 (Do nothing)

 

Not publishing an up-to-date assessment of the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in the District and using it to develop numbers in the Local Plan would place the Plan at risk of being found unsound.  Delays in publishing an up-to-date GTAA could have implications upon the Local Plan timetable.

 

Reasons

 

It was recommended that Cabinet accept the report put forward as part of the evidence base for the Local Plan.  The evidence within the report shall allow the Council to plan for future provision for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation and shall provide robust evidence in order to assess future planning applications for such accommodation.  It was the duty of Local Housing Authorities to include assessment of the accommodation needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community under the Housing Act 2004.  Failure to have an up-to-date assessment of these needs could lead to the Local Plan being found unsound.  Due to the implications of the report findings and their wider impact beyond the Local Plan the GTAA recommendation to Cabinet supersedes a separate consideration by the Local Plan Working Group.

 

RESOLVED that Members’ consider the contents of the report and accept option 1 (see report) to allow the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTAA) to go forward and to be considered in further detail, paying specific attention to wider consultation at the Local Plan Visioning Day session on 27 January 2014 to which all Members have been invited.

Supporting documents: