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Delays could lead to ‘unsuitable sites’ for travellers
GYPSY sites across south Worcestershire could proliferate unless councils speed up their policies on the issue, a leading councillor has warned.
Three district councils are this month starting to create a Development Plan Document (DPD) to set out how many sites and pitches will be needed for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople in South Worcestershire in years to come.
The plan is being prepared jointly by Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Worcester city councils.
But Councillor Tom Wells, whose Powick ward already contains a number of traveller sites, says he is alarmed the policy will not be adopted until 2016.
Speaking at a meeting of MHDC, he said: “I fear that we’ll get into the same situation with this that we have got into with planning, where developers are taking advantage of the fact we haven’t got a five-year supply of housing earmarked to get their planning applications pushed through.
“It is vital that the council acts quickly to assess the genuine local need for travellers' accommodation and, if such a need exists, identifies suitable sites as a matter of urgency.
“Until it does, I fear government planning inspectors may well feel obliged to approve applications on thoroughly unsuitable sites.”
He also said that people living near such sites might struggle to understand why it will take nearly three years to address the issue, and said MHDC should do all it can to speed up the process, even if it means going it alone from the other councils.
But Gary Williams, the council’s head of planning, economy and housing, said that if the council tried to formulate its own policy, it runs the risk of being found unsound by the independent inspector who will be judging it.
But he said MHDC will take the lead in driving forward the document’s timetable.
The timetable currently shows an initial consultation period running from January to October next year, publication in May or June 2015, and submission in August 2015.
It is due to be examined by an inspector in November 2015, with the inspector’s report being published in March 2016.