A SENIOR council planning officer admitted the land chosen as the preferred choice for a permanent gypsy and traveller site was the “least sustainable” of the 16 shortlisted sites.
But despite that revelation, by Andrew Carter, the council’s planning services manager, and the fact it is the third most costly site, Hartlepool Borough Council planning bosses admitted that – other than the two sites chosen – none of the other sites are now being considered.
That is despite all of the shortlisted sites fitting the criteria which council planning officers set out at the start of the process to designate land for a gypsy and traveller site in the town.
Earlier this summer, Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee opted for Hart Smallholdings West, to the west of Hart Village, as their preferred site with Hart Smallholdings East as the back-up option.
More than 100 Hart residents and ward councillors packed into a lecture theatre at Hartlepool College of Further Education yesterday as the Government’s planning inspector Kevin Ward resumed his examination into the council’s Local Plan.
And a panel including resident representatives, Hart Parish Council chairman John Littlefair and James Hall of planning and design consultancy firm Barton Willmore, took the opportunity to fire a number of concerns they have about the decision to planning officers and council staff.
Campaigners against the decision pressed the planning officers on why members of the council’s finance and policy committee opted for the two sites in Hart.
Chris Pipe, the council’s planning services manager, explained how a selection process had whittled 465 sites down to a shortlist of just 16, all of which fitted the criteria of being sustainable, suitable and deliverable.
It was then down to the committee members to make the final decision which was carried out on a meeting on August 8.
But Ms Pipe added: “Officers considered them all to be deliverable.
“What weight they gave to the evidence in front of them was to the transgression of the decision maker.”
Andrew Carter, senior planning officer, said all of the shortlisted sites were sustainable but admitted Hart Smallholdings West is “essentially the least sustainable of the 16 sites.”
The examination also heard how, despite Hart Smallholdings West being deemed to be suitable, sustainable and deliverable, there are waiting lists for places at Hart Primary School and the next nearest primary school, Clavering.
Parish council chair Mr Littlefair also aired his concerns about damage to the farmland where the site is being planned, flooding in the area, traffic on the busy A179 and access to hospital and medical services.
The examination, which was suspended earlier this year after Mr Ward called on officers to carry out further work to find an appropriate gypsy and traveller site, will continue today when Mr Ward will discuss the overall housing provision and tomorrow with the discussion of site allocation at Tunstall Farm.