Council leader confirms no area of Hartlepool has been picked for gypsy site

Christopher Akers-Belcher.
Christopher Akers-Belcher.

A COUNCIL leader has confirmed no area of Hartlepool has yet been identified for a potential gypsy and traveller site after a planning blueprint was ripped up.

Hartlepool Borough Council had initially identified land in Hart Village, on the outskirts of town, to accommodate gypsies and travellers as part of the Local Plan.

But in October the 15-year planning blueprint was thrown out at the last minute and work started again, including assessing if there is a need to earmark a site.

Council leader, Christopher Akers-Belcher, has told councillors at a meeting of the full council that at this stage a site has not been identified.

It was in response to a question by town resident David Riddle who wanted to know if the council still intended to site it at Hart Village.

Councillor Jonathan Brash, meanwhile, once again raised concerns that the decision to review the Local Plan - which took five years to put together at a cost of £1.5m - leaves the authority open to development as long as there isn’t a firm plan in place.

Mr Riddle asked the council leader: “Despite the scrapping of the Local Plan, Hartlepool Council are still obliged to decide on where to accommodate a gypsy and traveller site in order to comply with European law. Do the council still intend to site it at Hart Village?”

In response, Coun Akers-Belcher told the meeting that work was ongoing to establish the need for a site, or sites, in Hartlepool as part of the work on the Local Plan.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “At this stage, a site has not been identified.”

Coun Brash, who is classed as independent by the council, said a needs assessment had already been carried out and the Hart site endorsed by a Planning Inspector before the Local Plan was thrown out. He raised concerns it leaves the town open to development.

Coun Brash added: “In reality, we are going to be years, not six-months away, from having a Local Plan and in the meantime we are subject to the national framework.”

Coun Akers-Belcher urged councillors to take part in work at committee level around the formulation of the new planning blueprint.

Putting Hartlepool First councillor, Geoff Lilley, wanted clarity on exactly what the need is, while ceremonial mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher added: “We need clarity.”