New plans for travellers' sites

A new strategy for selecting land for travellers' sites has been mapped out by Broadland District Council as it faces up to public protests over controversial plans for a site near Reepham.

A new strategy for selecting land for travellers' sites has been mapped out by Broadland District Council as it faces up to public protests over controversial plans for a site near Reepham.

The council has come up with 20 criteria for measuring sites - and announced the score that each proposal must reach.

The draft criteria say that a site's impact on landscape and the Broads is "important", as is nature conservation, especially if the area is classed as a nature reserve.

But the former Whitwell Station site on the Marriott's Way outside Reepham is not a nature reserve, although locals are concerned about the impact on wildlife.

And there is no mention in

the criteria of the impact on

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leisure and tourism, which are concerns of Reepham Town Council. Marriott's Way forms part of a

long-distance cycle route and is heavily used by walkers and horse riders.

Under the proposals to be discussed by Broadland's cabinet on July 17, each site will be graded by officers on access to schools, doctors, shops, water and electricity and other factors such as the impact on neighbours and whether it meets the needs of prospective occupiers.

The score of one to 10 will

be multiplied by a weighting of one

to five, with access to healthcare, utilities and the availability of the

site being weighted most

heavily.

Temporary sites must reach a score of 450 to be considered, and permanent sites a score of 480.

Broadland is unusual in coming up with a relatively scientific way of assessing sites, which should in theory make it possible to compare sites directly.

There are currently no authorised traveller sites in Broadland, although there is a shortage of provision

across the county.

Most Norfolk councils are using their local development framework process as a way of finding sites - but the report to cabinet from Andy Jarvis, head of environmental services, warns that this will take two- and-a-half to three years.

He says: "The risk is that at this point the council could be directed

by the secretary of state to make a site(s) available and that the government's two-year gypsy site funding opportunity will have been missed."

So the council is trying to find

sites now, and is allocating £50,000

of capital and £18,000 in annual maintenance to do this, with is

a further £18,000 available if

needed.

The report warns that assessing traveller site needs will be "resource intensive", and will take up staff time in environmental services and planning departments and the policy unit.