Bowd 'not suitable' for gypsy and traveller site

LAND at the Bowd isn t suitable to house gypsies and travellers- say town officials who insist the site 'doesn t tick one box' in strict government requirements.

LAND at the Bowd isn't suitable to house gypsies and travellers- say town officials who insist the site "doesn't tick one box" in strict government requirements.

Last week the Herald reported how a piece of land on "The gateway to Sidmouth", off the A3052 has been targeted as a travellers' pitch- with East Devon District Council claiming it's owner has "expressed a positive interest" in the prospect.

It is understood the land is the only one of four earmarked sites that EDDC can pursue after land-owners near Honiton, Exmouth and Tipton St John proved less receptive to proposals.

The Government has ordered EDDC, which said it will now embark on a full public consultation in Sidmouth, to find an additional nine pitches by 2011.

However, county councillor Stuart Hughes and district counterpart Graham Troman believe the issue has been discussed without funding rules or government criteria being taken into account.

The Homes and Communities Agency, tasked with providing gypsy and traveller sites, has made �11 million available to local government authorities in the South West until 2011.

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Applications for 2009/10 funding have to be submitted by June 30 and need to meet strict criteria- with permanent sites required to remain in use for at least 10 years.

Cllr Troman, a development control committee member, believes the Bowd land won't "stand up" to guidelines that need to be met to secure any cash.

He said: "Requirements state the sites must have affective management arrangements, access, parking, sewage- a lot of infrastructure- its not logistically realistic.

"I'm not against travellers or gypsies- we need to provide for sites- but we want the right sites.

"I still believe this is wrong for Sidmouth- we are big on tourism, it is our life blood- and I worry what affect this could have.

"I'm a resident there (the Bowd) and a councillor- people talk to me and to date- residents haven't been consulted, they only know what they have read in the paper."

Cllr Hughes thinks the Bowd land "doesn't tick one box" in the Government's Designing Gypsy and Travellers Sites Good Practice Guide.

He said: "It is essential the location is a safe environment for residents and not a safety risk for young children, here you have two busy roads- the A3052 which has 16,000 vehicles on it per day, and the B3176 with up 7,000. Also proposed sites must be 'flat and suitable'- this is all slopes and hills."

Cllr Hughes has also questioned the provision of mains water, electricity, drainage and sanitation for the sight and the health and safety implications of traffic noise on potential residents, as well as school access for children and flooding implications from concrete pitch demands.

He said: "For many years an application for a bungalow has always been refused on the grounds it's (the land) in an area of outstanding natural beauty and all of a sudden they are saying you can't have a bungalow but you can have a travellers' site.