£500,000 allocated to find sites for gypsies

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7712-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7712-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A £500,000 budget has been proposed for the district council to provide dedicated gypsy sites across East Devon.

The initiative, that will see East Devon District Council (EDDC) consult with gypsies and travellers directly in order to provide suitable land for them, was described as ‘long overdue’ when endorsed last week.

Councillors approved proposals at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, June 17, and will now seek to produce a Gypsy and Traveller Plan, which will identify specific sites.

This is considered integral to securing a local plan for the district, as councils are required to assess the needs of the sector and ensure they are met.

EDDC leader Councillor Paul Diviani said: “It will not be easy meeting their needs. Finding privately owned sites, which are suitable for gypsies and travellers, is extremely difficult.

“I am confident that our new strategy will meet the requirements of our gypsy and traveller communities and this in turn will put us in a strong position to defend our countryside from unlawful camps.”

Although proposals received a strong endorsement from councillors, there were warnings about over-crowding sites and careful handling of this sector.

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Speaking at EDDC’s development management committee on Tuesday, June 16, Councillor Alison Greenhalgh said: “I’m particularly concerned about the impact on education and local schools.

“Having worked with children from this kind of heritage, it can be quite complicated and hard to ensure the children do attend school on a regular basis.”

Cllr Mike Howe raised concerns about having too many family units on one site and suggested a cap should be imposed on numbers.

Cllr Mike Allen said: “This particular approach had been an absolute essential since around 2008, when we started looking at the proposals.

“I’m very disappointed that it’s taken six or seven years to bring forward any proposals because if the local plan fails, it’s due to lack of gypsy and traveller sites.

“I thoroughly endorse the proposal – it’s long overdue.”

Subject to approval by the local plan inspector, the council will put out a call for sites – areas, such as Cranbrook, on the western side of East Devon have been earmarked as potentially suitable.

As well as the proposed £500,000 budget for purchasing sites, the council is looking into other sources of finance available to it.

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