Inspector questions planned Gipsy sites

A district council was urged to go back to the drawing board yesterday after a planning inspector raised 'serious concerns' about plans for two Gipsy and traveller sites.

A district council was urged to go back to the drawing board yesterday after a planning inspector raised 'serious concerns' about plans for two Gipsy and traveller sites.

South Norfolk Council submitted proposals for permanent pitches in Wymondham and Earsham, near Bungay, earlier this year following a three-year search and scrutiny of more than 80 sites.

But the local authority was yesterday urged to withdraw its Gipsy and traveller development plan document (DPD) following con-cerns from an independent inspector about the selection and deliverability of the proposed locations in Stanfield Road, Wymondham, and Old Harleston Road, Earsham.

A report from inspector Simon Emerson has prompted opposition members to call for the Tory administration to restart its search for more suitable sites.

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The council wants to create 16 additional pitches by 2011. But in a letter to the council, Mr Emerson said he had 'serious concerns' over whether he would find the DPD sound, and urged the council to give 'careful consideration' to the contin-uation of the examination process.

The planning inspectorate has raised particular concerns about the Wymondham plans, which are next to the Goff Petroleum fuel storage depot. The oil supplier began a public exhibition yesterday to expand its Stanfield Road depot on to the same plot as the proposed Gipsy and traveller site.

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'It would be poor planning to introduce a use which might curtail potential acceptable expansion of the adjoining business, unless there were good reasons to outweigh that potential adverse impact.

'I attach considerable importance to finding suitable sites for Gipsies and travellers, but I have seen little evidence to satisfy me that it should be this particular site so close to a land use which is incompatible with residential use,' said Mr Emerson.

The inspector added that he recognised the 'considerable time and effort' expended by the council, but also recognised the 'importance of finding additional lawful and suitable sites for Gipsies and travellers'.

Murray Gray, leader of the South Norfolk Liberal Democrat group, called for the formation of a new Gipsy and traveller working group to look for alternative sites in the district.

'I'm urging the council to withdraw the DPD before any more time and money is taken up on what I have always regarded as a flawed process resulting in a flawed choice of sites,' he said.

But Derek Blake, South Norfolk cabinet member for planning, housing and the built environment, said he was still confident that the government would approve the two sites.

'Our proposals have public support because we involved our community every step of the way.

'Having their support has made our plan more deliverable and justified.

'We are the first council in the country to reach this stage. Other councils across England, yet to even start this process, are closely watching our progress and making decisions about whether to follow, hence the importance of this proceeding,' he said.

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