AN inspector has suspended an examination into a council’s planning blueprint after he raised concerns about the suitability of the area earmarked for a gypsy and traveller site.
Government-appointed inspector Kevin Ward has been overseeing the public examination into Hartlepool Borough Council’s Local Plan, a 15-year plan for the town, over the past fortnight.
A key part of the plan is for land in Brenda Road, Hartlepool, to be allocated for a proposed gypsy and traveller site.
But on the last day of the examination, Mr Ward raised concerns about its suitability and agreed to suspend the examination to allow officers to carry out more work on other potential sites.
The examination could be adjourned for up to six months while other options are considered in more depth.
It is understood there was a risk that if the council didn’t invite Mr Ward to suspend proceedings and decided to push ahead, that the inspector could have ruled the Local Plan unsound.
A council spokesman said: “Given that the planning inspector had concerns about the suitability of land on Brenda Road as the proposed gypsy and traveller site provision in the draft Local Plan, the council invited the inspector to suspend the Local Plan examination to allow the council time to reconsider this matter and look at other possible sites.
“We will work with the Planning Inspectorate to address this issue to ensure that the Local Plan examination can recommence as soon as is practicably possible.”
Earlier in the examination process, council planning chiefs had faced a grilling from residents, retail park bosses and local ward councillors over the plans which could see a permanent site at Brenda Road, next to the Tees Bay Retail Park.
Proposals for a six-pitch site are currently included within the Local Plan after officers considered 216 council-owned sites.
Officers said they only considered council sites as they could be “delivered” in the short term and they believed the chosen site was suitable.
But retail park bosses said the council has rushed into selecting the site, while residents raised concerns about access, suitability, the consultation process and safety concerns due to the busy A689 and Brenda Road.
A future gypsy and traveller site would be subject to the usual planning process, which would include what facilities would be needed.
The proposals follow a Tees Valley-wide study in 2009 which revealed there was need for six pitches in town to meet housing need.
The Local Plan includes proposals to build 2,500 homes in a south-western extension from the A689 to Brierton Lane and new housing in Upper Warren, Elwick, Hart and Wynyard.
Before it can be officially adopted by the council, it must be subject to the public examination.
No date has yet been set for when it will reconvene.