Gypsy sites set to be scrapped

Hart Parish Council chairman John Littlefair(left) with left to right) Parish Councillor Alan Bell, Neighbourhood Development Officer Ann Callaghan and Councillor Paul Beck.
Hart Parish Council chairman John Littlefair(left) with left to right) Parish Councillor Alan Bell, Neighbourhood Development Officer Ann Callaghan and Councillor Paul Beck.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to create two gypsy and traveller sites at Hart look set to be scrapped in a major U-turn.

Village leaders welcomed the news after Hartlepool Labour Group announced a bid to kick out the Hartlepool Local Plan.

The plan, created by the previous council administration under Mayor Stuart Drummond, aims to guide major 
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development decisions in the town for the next 15 years.

But council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher says it does not represent the wishes of residents particularly over gypsy and traveller provision.

And a huge 2,750 housing development next to the Fens and Owton Manor estates, known as the South Western extension, could also be reviewed.

Hartlepool Labour Group, which holds a council majority of 14, will put forward a resolution at the next meeting of the full council to withdraw the Hartlepool Local Plan.

The move would not only see the plans to set up gypsy and traveller sites at Hart village scrapped but the motion says the council should relook at whether ANY site in town should be set aside for such use.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “I have spoken with my Labour colleagues in the Hart Ward, Councillor Paul Beck and Councillor Jean Robinson.

“I have listened to their concerns regarding the proposed gypsy and traveller site and agreed we must revisit this element of the local plan in respect of both need and demand to determine if any site should be designated within the borough.”

Coun Akers-Belcher has also met with the Fens Residents Association which has been fighting against the South Western Extension on their doorsteps for he last three years.

He said withdrawing the plan will let the council review the future housing provision for the whole town which may lead to a review of the whole development.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “We cannot and will not adopt a local plan that has become divisive rather than cohesive for our town.

“If we are to deliver on our pledge that the new model of Governance will make robust decisions that chime with the public and partner expectations of good quality local government we must act now to withdraw the local plan and this will reflect the trust communities have placed in us.

“Further to this I would urge all councillors to support this proactive move for the benefit of Hartlepool.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said the council would consider the recommendations of Government planning inspector Kevin Ward who finished a public examination of the current plan last week.

But he said the council is legally entitled to withdraw the local plan at any time before it is officially adopted.

Hart ward Labour Councillor Paul Beck said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the Labour group has decided to try and relook at the plan.

“What was suggested would blight the whole Hart ward. At the end of the day this is a village that relies heavily on tourism and anybody coming to visit would be astounded if this was allowed to happen.”

The news was welcomed by opponents of the gypsy and South Western extension plans.

John Littlefair, chairman of Hart Parish Council, said: “If what I hear is correct I’m very pleased about it.

“It has caused a lot of anxiety and upset with people who are rightly concerned about it.

“I just hope next time that a lot more thought is put into it and there is a lot more consultation.”

Robert Smith, vice chairman of the Fens Residents’ Association, said: “If the move succeeds it is good news for the town.

“Developers say they have got to be ready for an economic upturn but the jobs likely to be created would not be people looking for executive housing unless we get a lot of companies where there are more chiefs than Indians.”

The motion will go before the full council on Thursday, October 17.