HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has moved to reassure residents concerned about plans for a permanent gypsy and traveller site to be based in their village.
Hartlepool Borough Council has chosen Hart Smallholdings West, to the west of Hart village, as their preferred site with Hart Smallholdings East, the back-up option.
But Mr Wright, who was not included in the selection process, has stressed that the council has said there is currently no demand and that it would only be developed once the demand is there.
Mr Wright said: “In March 2012 the present Conservative-led Government withdrew Labour’s policy on planning for traveller sites and replaced it with a new policy.
“This policy states that local planning authorities should set targets for pitch sites for gypsies and travellers and provides criteria which councils have to consider when identifying such sites.
“The Government has also abolished Regional Spatial Strategies, which provided a formal and co-ordinated way of considering planning developments across a whole area.
“Traditionally Darlington and Stockton have provided the vast majority of traveller sites in our area, but the Government now insists through its March 2012 policy that each local authority identifies sites in its own area.
“I did not make the decision as to why Hart was chosen and was not privy to the process, but the council would have had to comply with Government guidance.
“I would stress, however, that although central Government insists on the identification of such sites, Hartlepool Borough Council has decided that no such demand exists and, as such, the Hart site should not be developed at the present time.”
The consultation of the 16 council-owned sites followed the formal examination of the council’s proposed Local Plan by a Government planning inspector, which was suspended after he called on officers to carry out further work to find an appropriate site.
Independent councillor Keith Fisher, who represents the Hart ward, has written to the MP looking for support in scrapping the legislation.
Mr Fisher wrote: “I do not ask you to explain why the ruling is correct or proper but I do ask for your help in responding to the clear wishes of the vast majority of the public by rescinding this now inappropriate ruling.”