When Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White heard that district councillors will be advised next Wednesday to reject a Gypsy and traveller site on land close to the Chase Meadow estate he commented: “It looks as if common sense has reared its head.”
The MP agreed with residents of Chase Meadow and Stratford Road that the Severn Trent site - between the sewage works and the M40 motorway - was highly unsuitable.
In a report to next week’s executive meeting, council officers will strongly recommend councillors look again at land protected by Green Belt legislation, including some of the eight sites previously rejected for that very reason.
Not allocating enough sites for Gypsies and travellers in the district is contrary to national policy and would certainly lead to the recently submitted Local Plan being judged unsound.
The option of using Compulsory Purchase powers to acquire the land from Severn Trent was not considered a good option because of the length of time that would take. Councillors would also have to consider the cost, the unpopularity with local residents and the high risk of failure as no traveller sites have been acquired in that way.
Mr White said he hoped sites already rejected would not be “revisited.” But this may not be an option.
Some 700 people responded to the council’s public consultation on the proposed Stratford Road site for travellers. The district has an obligation to identify two permanent sites, plus a patch of land for people passing through, as part of Government rules aimed at preventing the endless disruption - and cost - of moving on travellers who say they have no alternative to trespassing.
Leamington FC’s land at Harbury Lane for 15 pitches (accommodating perhaps 30 caravans), plus one pitch off Europa Way, are both expected to be incorporated into the provision for travellers.
But the late addition of the Stratford Road site for the final 30 pitches led to members of the Chase Meadow Residents’ Association submitting a petition of objection signed by 326 local people.
Some, like Bryan Houston, the association chairman, said he accepted sites for travellers had to be found. But Mr Houston added: “Surely securing the land from Severn Trent was fundamental to the whole process? What a waste of public funds and just further evidence of the district wasting valuable public resources through ineffective management of an issue.”
In fact the district owns about half of the 40 acres along with Severn Trent and another landowner.
Warwick town councillor Mandy Littlejohn said: “Most of the 700 who sent in their individual views during the consultation process had valid reasons to object to this site, which would be in the wrong place and with nearby schools already oversubscribed.
“This was never a viable idea - there were six months to sort out whether Severn Trent would sell the land and in that time the company even sent out letters to some neighbours in Chase Meadow saying the site wasn’t suitable for travellers.”