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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 5TH NOVEMBER, 2012

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT): 9TH OCTOBER, 2012

 

 

 

 

"406    GYPSY AND TRAVELLER SITE PROVISION IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (DDS) -

 

Prior to the commencement of discussions the Chairman stated that the order of proceedings would be as contained within the agenda at item 4.  He further advised that a letter had also been received from Councillor R.J. Bertin who could not be present at the meeting and which was also contained within the papers. 

 

Councillor R.A. Penrose, the first speaker, referred to his Request for Consideration as follows:- “When is the Authority proceeding with a permanent travellers camp, shortlisted to Llangan, thus complying with Westminster Parliament legislation recommendations of 2005, and recent Welsh Government “White Paper – Housing” at present at consultation until August 2012”.”  The reason for the request was that in Sully “we have had an illegal travellers camp since December 2011, and we are informed that the occupants may not be relocated or evicted until the Authority have established a permanent travellers site in the Vale of Glamorgan”.

 

During the presentation Councillor Penrose also referred to a number of questions / issues of concern which had been circulated prior to the meeting.

 

“Why should the Vale of Glamorgan Council proceed with a permanent travellers’ site?

·                    Firstly because the Vale of Glamorgan has deliberated too long on this matter and now needs to implement action.

·                    To comply with Westminster Government recommendations of 2005 in recommending all local authorities throughout the U.K. to facilitate a permanent travellers’ site in their area.

·                    To comply with Welsh Government “White Paper on Housing”, under consultation until August 2012, which states the need for every local authority in Wales to facilitate a resident travellers’ site in their area.

·                    To comply with the Vale of Glamorgan Council Local Development Plan (LDP).

·                    To deter the numerous planning applications from the Gypsy and Traveller Community for Gypsy / Travellers’ Sites in the Vale of Glamorgan, such as recently received in Wick and Bonvilston.

·                    To comply with humanitarian and Equality legislation towards the Gypsy / Traveller community.

·                    To establish a controlled suitable site for the Gypsy Traveller Community.

·                    A site has already been chosen as the most suitable site by the Vale of Glamorgan Council from a list of 50 possible sites.

·                    Consultation exercise has already taken place in that chosen location.

·                    The site is already owned by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

 

Why the travellers illegally occupying the recycling site at Hayes Road, Sully should be moved to a permanent travellers’ site?

·                    They are illegally occupying the site, and accordingly should be moved off the site.

·                    The site is inside the ‘red’ safety zone of the nearby chemical plant, and as such is not suitable for residency.

·                    The site was previously a refuse recycling centre, and as such must have a degree of pollution making it unsuitable for resident occupation.

·                    There are no basis amenities on the site, such as toilets etc.

·                    The site has a waste licence to the Vale of Glamorgan Council which is unlikely to be transferrable to another location, and is a necessity to the waste disposal operation of the Council.

·                    The site will be required as a Waste Transfer Site by the Vale of Glamorgan Council from January 2013, and an application has been submitted for planning permission for this operation.

·                    An application has been made by Sully Community Council for 47 allotment plots to the adjoining land (including an application for 32 allotment plots from Beechwood College for their students).

·                    Objection from Beechwood College, which is the next site to the illegal travellers’ camp, which is hampering expansive development plans for their operation, as well as causing disruption to their students.

·                    Large numbers of objections from local residents.

·                    The illegal travellers’ camp is in a close proximity to the Ty Hafen Children's Hospice.”

 

Councillor K.P. Mahoney (second speaker) advised that he fully concurred with the representations made by Councillor Penrose but stated that, in his view, the site was unsatisfactory particularly because it was too small for a travellers’ site.  Research had also been undertaken in relation to the site at Llangan, that site was working well and he had noted that the size of the travelling vehicles used was not an issue for the roads within that area.  He urged the Council through the Scrutiny Committee to address the issue of the travellers’ site within the Vale as a matter of urgency.

 

Councillor C. Tatt (Vice-Chairman, (Sully and Lavernock Community Council) thanked the Committee for the opportunity to speak, and endorsed the comments made by Councillors Penrose and Mahoney.  He referred also to the fact that the Sully and Lavernock Community Council residents had been lobbying for the removal of the travellers on the site, in view of the fact that they were illegally occupying the site.  He was, however, aware that the Vale of Glamorgan Council had to consider the legal issues involved and was appreciative of the fact that any action to remove the travellers from the site would take some time.  He stated that the community had followed and adhered to all the advice provided by the Vale of Glamorgan over the last 10 months and he strongly urged the Council to take action to remove the travellers from the site. 

 

Mr. R. Jones (Director of Beechwood College) stated that the College was adjacent to the travellers’ camp in Sully and that his responsibility was to ensure that the best interests of the College, including its students and staff were taken into account.  He formally endorsed all the points that had been raised by Councillors Penrose and Mahoney.  Mr Jones informed the Committee that the site had been acquired from the Vale in 2001 with the specific aim of developing a service for Welsh young people with autism, a provision that had not existed previously.  He further advised that the nature of people with autism was that social interaction could be challenging and the location of the Beechwood site with no residential neighbours was key to the decision to redevelop what was a derelict site.  The College cared for just under 50 young people and employed over 170 staff, the majority of whom were local. The College had established itself as a centre of excellence for the further understanding of and improvement for people with autism.  The College had become part of the community and due to the success it had achieved the service had expanded to meet the increasing demand for places.  The company had so far invested £6m. into the site and had recently received planning permission to provide additional classrooms, a new visitor reception centre and increased car parking to allow for the growth in student and staff numbers over the next few years.  The primary concerns of the College were as follows:

 

·                    “we need to ensure that we provide a safe and secure environment for students and staff

·                    we need to cater for the psychological wellbeing of students, including their right to quiet enjoyment of their surroundings, the rural location for the site being one of the primary reasons the College was situated where it was

·                    the need to protect the economic viability of the College in order for it to continue to offer the service in Wales and to be able to generate the additional 70 jobs from the next phase of development. “

 

For the traveller site to be in such close proximity to the College raised a number of questions for all those involved in placing students as it had the potential to threaten the long term future viability of the service and the economic benefits to the local community.  He stressed that the choice to attend the College was not made primarily by the students, it was also made by parents, Social Services commissioning authorities and local councils in considering the right placement for a particular student.  It was the College’s view that to allow the traveller camp to remain in its present location would be detrimental to the service and the ability to attract new placements. 

 

Although he advised Members that no problems had been experienced to date, it was the view that as there was already no control over any future expansion by the travellers on the site, this had the potential to worsen.  The College would also have to consider additional security against the possibility of the travellers’ dogs accessing the site and, if they were aggressive, could cause a huge amount of distress to the students.  The continuing presence of the travellers camp also has the potential to put off future placements to the College simply by way of association.  He ended his representations by advising that the College supported the view that the temporary traveller camp should be moved from the site and relocated to a more appropriate permanent and well structured environment. 

 

The Chairman then took the opportunity to read out for those present the letter received from Councillor R.J. Bertin as detailed below. 

 

“I wish to register my concern about the former recycling area in Hayes Road, Sully being used as a Travellers Site.

 

Having considered the matter, being in a blast area for the local chemical works I feel for the safety of these Travellers.  This area has also been designated for other council functions and I feel should only be used for industrial purposes. That said, we do have a duty to provide Travellers sites throughout the county and would kindly request that the council seeks to provide such sites at the earliest opportunity in other areas.

 

I request that you take this into account and help find these Travellers a more suitable site in another location.”

 

Following the representations as above the Chairman requested the Director of Development Services to present his report.

 

The Director commenced by referring to the background to the report as contained within paragraphs 2 to 21, the statutory requirements of the Council and the research that had already been undertaken with a range of gypsy and traveller groups within the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff.  The data that had been provided for the draft LDP had been quantitative as it had been based on the views and experiences of accommodation provisions and wider service issues.  The table below illustrated the estimated requirements for pitches and housing for the Vale of Glamorgan between 2008 to 2018:

 

Type

Additional Units

per Annum

Total Additional Units over the

10 year period

 

Authorised pitches 

0.6

6

Unauthorised pitches 

0

0

Transit pitches (where Gypsies and Travellers may legally stop in the course of travelling) 

1.5

15

Housing

0.1

1

 

The Welsh Government Circular 30/2007 “Planning for Gypsy and Caravan Sites” (December 2007) provided guidance to local authorities in Wales on the planning aspects of finding suitable sites for Gypsies and Travellers. It also required that where a Local Housing Market Assessment (LHMA) identified an unmet need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in an area, Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) should allocate sufficient sites in LDPs to ensure that the identified pitch requirements for residential and transit use can be met.

 

The Council had also as part of the LDP process the duty to identify sites where developments such as housing, employment or other uses may occur during the lifetime of the plan.  The report detailed that between 4th December 2006 and 31st January 2007 the Council had invited developers, land owners, other interested parties to nominate candidate sites for development for potential inclusion in the emerging LDP.  Leading on from this, 51 sites in total had been considered with 2 warranting a more detailed investigation against a range of environmental and land use constraints that might impact upon their suitability and deliverability for use as a site for gypsies and travellers. 

 

Following consideration of the available sites, the site at Llangan owned by the Council, had been included in the deposit Local Development Plan for use as a gypsy and travellers site.  A copy of the Gypsy and Travellers Site Assessment background paper which provided more detail on the site assessment methodology had also been made available in the Members’ room for information. 

 

Public consultation on the LDP and accompanying documents, including the various background papers had taken place for the statutory six weeks prescribed by the Regulations between 20th February 2012 and 2nd April 2012.  Significant representations and objections had been received on many of the elements of the LDP including the allocation of a Gypsy and Traveller Site at Llangan.  The background to the LDP, the deposit plan consultation, an outline of the objections and the possible way forward would be the subject of a separate report to the Scrutiny Committee on 6th November 2012.

 

The Director informed the Committee that an issue that had emerged from the consultation was whether the matter could be progressed outside of the LDP process.  However his view was that the document had been out for consultation and to take the issue forward outside of the strategic document would be a difficult challenge in view of all the issues involved.

 

In answering a comment in respect of the lack of time taken to progress the LDP the Director referred to paragraph 34 of his report which detailed the range of legislation, national policies and guidance concerning Gypsies and Travellers which placed obligations on local authorities in Wales when exercising their functions and responsibilities.  The Director also took the opportunity to inform Committee of the Inspectors comments (paragraph 34 of the Inspectors decision attached as an Appendix to the report)  in relation to the appeal decision at Bonvilston, which stated that the “Circular explained gypsies may wish to find and buy their own sites to develop and manage.  An increase in the number of approved private sites may also release pitches on Council sites for gypsies most in need of public provision.  Further, Councils should encourage the provision of private sites.”

 

The Director of Visible Services and Housing also advised Members that to remove the travellers from the site would be difficult for the Council in view of the fact that no permanent site had been earmarked within the Vale and the Council would be reluctant to take legal action that it knew it would have little  chance of winning.  In response to a question as to whether the site could be required for recycling purposes, he stated that this was a possibility but that it was dependant upon the tendering process that was jointly being undertaken between the Vale and Caerphilly Borough Council, it being noted that if the company Biffa won the tender they had their own site in Cardiff.  He would also not be in a position to confirm whether the site would be required or not until the end of December when the tendering process was completed.  In further response to a question of how the travellers had conducted themselves on the Sully site, the Director advised that the travellers had not caused the Council any concerns to date.

 

It was noted that following the consultation process, in relation to the Llangan site a number of responses had been received but the Director of Development Services was of the view it was premature to make any comments in view of the number of stages the Plan had to go through.

 

Councillor Penrose being afforded the opportunity to respond advised that his purpose in raising the issue was because it was a delicate matter and that, in his opinion, it would be better dealt with outside the LDP process as in the case of some other housing developments.  The Director confirmed that there were examples of sites that had been brought forward outside the LDP process but that these had to be considered having regard to relevant policies contained within the adopted UDP.  With regard to the Llangan site specifically, there had been a considerable amount of consultation undertaken, a number of responses received and in view of the strength of feeling he would not advocate dealing with the issue outside of the LDP.  It was again noted that a report regarding a way forward for the LDP would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in November and he estimated that it would take between 15 and 18 months before the final document would be ready to go before the Inspector to determine the Plan

 

Members, having considered the report and the representations received, were of the view that the issue of a Travellers and Gypsy site should remain within the LDP, however, it was

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be referred to the Cabinet for consideration with the request that Cabinet establish a permanent travellers site for the Vale of Glamorgan as soon as possible.


 

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In recognition of the representations received and the urgent need to establish a traveller site within the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 9th October, 2012

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