Controversial gypsy site plans scrapped in new blueprint for Hartlepool

Hart Smallholdings East was one of the sites put forward for a gypsy and traveller site.
Hart Smallholdings East was one of the sites put forward for a gypsy and traveller site.

CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed news that Hartlepool Borough Council has scrapped plans for a gypsy and traveller site in its new planning blueprint.

The designation of two plots in Hart village caused public outcry and was one of the main reasons for the council’s Local Plan being scrapped in 2013.

Now after demands for clarity on the situation from Putting Hartlepool First Hart ward councillor David Riddle, the council has confirmed a gypsy and traveller site will not be included in the revised Local Plan when it goes out to consultation later this year.

Campaigners who were against the original plans have welcomed the move, but are waiting for the final plan to be published to make sure the council is not forced to designate sites by government planning inspectors.

Council chief executive Dave Stubbs said in the event a gypsy site is deemed necessary, hundreds of possible sites across town would be considered first and not just the original Hart sites.

Coun Riddle asked Coun Robbie Payne, who is chairman of the regeneration services committee, if the council would look at potential traveller sites from across the town as opposed to the two previous Hart plots.

Coun Payne said while there was a requirement in 2013 for the council to provide a dedicated site, in line with national gypsy and traveller guidance, new evidence suggested that is no longer the case.

As such no new gypsy site would be allocated through the new Local Plan.

Coun Riddle also sought further reassurances by writing to the council’s most senior officer, chief executive Dave Stubbs.

Coun Riddle said: “Whilst I appreciate this is by no means a full-on victory for the residents of the ward, it is of sorts in that it gives them peace of mind that the issue is now no more of a Hart ward issue than it is an issue for anywhere else in the town.

“Many people across Hart village, Bishop Cuthbert and surrounding areas are still worried about this issue.

“They believed, understandably that Hart was the default position for any future site.

“However, this confirmation from Mr Stubbs will hopefully provide them with some reassurance that this is no longer the case.”

The council scrapped its draft Local Plan, which would be used to guide all sorts of developments in Hartlepool for the next 15 years, in October 2013.

Council Leader, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said it did not reflect the wishes of the people.

Coun Payne said: “Previously everyone was under the impression that the council had an obligation to provide a gypsy and traveller site in the town but we now know that this was not the case.

“I can confirm that when the revised Local Plan comes forward later this year, there will be no provision for a gypsy and traveller site.

“Evidence shows that there is no current demand for such a site so it will not be included.

“I am sure that the large majority of residents will welcome this news and those who criticised us at the time for withdrawing the Local Plan will hopefully understand why we took that decision.

“The only way that a gypsy and traveller site may be provided at some point in the future would be if the council received an application from a private individual and it could be demonstrated that there was sufficient demand.”

John Littlefair, chairman of Hart Parish Council, which fought the previous allocation in the village, gave the news a cautious welcome.

Mr Littlefair said: “If that is the case it’s very reassuring for the people of Hart village.

“I would like to see the Local Plan when it actually comes out as to what is written there.

“Until that comes out, really we are still in limbo.”

Regarding how the council would deal with any private planning applications for a gypsy or traveller site, Mr Stubbs said: “I can confirm that there is no requirement/guidance to recommend that such a site be specifically placed within the Hart ward.”

The new Hartlepool Local Plan is expected to be adopted in 2016.