Town the priority for creation of new traveller sites

PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 December 2012

Views of the  Town Hall Building from the Centre, WsM.

Views of the Town Hall Building from the Centre, WsM.

Archant

RESIDENTS could get their say on whether two sites on the outskirts of Weston could become specialised traveller and gypsy sites.

Locking Parklands and Weston Airfield have both been earmarked for the developments after landowners were told to find space so travellers can live side-by-side with locals.

Further feasibility studies are set to take place in the new year before the idea goes out to public consultation.

A draft document was due to be approved at a meeting of the authority’s executive as the Mercury went to press, which would allow the idea to be explored in more depth.

North Somerset Council had to turn to more urban areas to create the new facilities, after more rural land it was looking at was rated as a high flood risk by the Environment Agency.

It is set to earn £2million over the next year by finding sites for traveller pitches in the area.

The authority’s deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees says the council has a duty to identify pitches for residents who enjoy a gypsy and traveller lifestyle.

He stressed that the council is committed to consulting with local people and businesses before any planning application is made and that any selected sites would be relatively small and properly managed.

He added: “A survey we’ve carried out has shown that the initial need for additional pitches is in the Weston area as this is where most members of the current gypsy and traveller community want to live.

“The site choices are also near to schools and other facilities that families need.”

Cllr Ap Rees added that the council is continuing a review of potential sites to include land within the new urban village areas at Parklands and Weston Airfield, as well as exploring the potential to build on other sites in the district.

He added: “The aim is to establish sites where there is minimal likelihood of conflict and where landscaping can be used to green the immediate area.

“This is a successful method for integrating the alternative lifestyles which we have seen at the existing site at Locking Castle and which we believe can work elsewhere subject to proper management.”

The council says it is under growing pressure to find the sites due to the growing and ageing population of travellers already living in the district, which means the children now need homes.

In North Somerset there are dozens of permanent traveller pitches across multiple sites already.

These include Willowmead and the privately-owned Moorland Park in Hewish.

The monthly thousands-of-pounds-per-caravan payments mean councils can claim back extra money from the Government in return for clearing the way for sites.

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