Our latest Press Release:
Local residents begin Judicial Review process against B&NES, challenging flawed Gypsy and Traveller Site Selection Process
Five residents have taken a further step in starting Judicial Review proceedings against Bath & North East Somerset Council. The legal challenge is the latest development in B&NES’ controversial selection and consultation process for preferred gypsy and traveller sites.
The five claimants take B&NES to task on what they say is a fundamentally flawed process and oppose the selection of three of the six sites noted by B&NES as preferred options in B&NES’ Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD). The sites are The Old Colliery in Stanton Wick, the former Infants School Canteen, Bath Old Road, Radstock, and land near to Ellsbridge House, Keynsham.
Solicitors representing the claimants wrote to B&NES on 24 July 2012, laying out the reasons why the site selection process undertaken by the Council has been “unreasonable, irrational, unlawful and procedurally irregular”. The response from B&NES, received on the very last of the 14 days permitted under the pre-action protocol was wholly unsatisfactory.
Two of the claimants, Philip Townshend and Elizabeth Richardson, are also members of the Stanton Wick Action Group and oppose the selection of The Old Colliery site in Stanton Wick as a preferred option.
Mr Townshend said:
“B&NES’ own assessment of The Old Colliery site at Stanton Wick ranked it as being particularly unsuitable placing it in 17th position out of the 23 sites considered. There was no logical reason for it to even be on the long-list, let alone being identified as a ‘preferred option’ on the Council’s shortlist.
“There has been overwhelming feedback from local residents about why the Stanton Wick site is inappropriate at every point of this deeply-flawed process; we have attended every meeting available with B&NES, given evidence whenever possible, and presented them with multiple opportunities to reconsider. We have urged them to run a transparent, well-publicised process that is based on objective site suitability scoring, an up-to-date needs assessment, local communities’ views, long-term site sustainability and deliverability, and the needs of the traveller communities themselves.
“B&NES have ignored all of our considerable efforts to resolve this. We are left no choice but to start proceedings that will challenge this deeply flawed process in law.”
The claim lists the numerous attempts made to resolve the issues without litigation, including:
- Formal detailed and comprehensive representation at the 9 May 2012 Cabinet meeting; the 15 May 2012 Planning Transport and Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee meeting, the 13 June 2012 Cabinet meeting and the 18 June 2012 Special Council Meeting
- Legal representation and advice to the 18 June 2012 Special Council meeting
- Detailed and comprehensive advice given at two of B&NES’ roadshows
- The submission of independent professional Planning Reports
Despite these efforts and a huge response from the local communities (including more than 1,000 signatures on both written and e-petitions), the claimants say that B&NES has
“failed to remedy the errors made in relation to a number of sites; or provide answers which can explain the seeming irregularity of [their] actions in terms of reasonableness, lawfulness and procedural propriety.”
Les Robson, Co-Chair of Bath Old Road Action Group which opposes the selection of the former Infants School site in Bath Old Road, Radstock, said:
“We are disappointed that despite numerous opportunities for B&NES to withdraw these wholly inappropriate and unsustainable sites from the Preferred Options list, our requests have essentially been ignored despite the overwhelming evidence presented.
“Bath Old Road Action Group believes that the sites selected are undeliverable. The process undertaken has unreasonably raised the expectation of the travelling community as well as putting the lives of local residents on hold whilst a decision is being made This hasn’t done anyone any favours.
“With B&NES stating that caravans or mobile homes would be viewed as ‘alien’ and ‘unacceptable’, Bath Old Road Action Group are bemused that the Council continues to believe that placing a traveller site in the middle of a residential street is a good idea”.
Rosemary Collard, who runs The Snapdragons Nursery which is next to the land at Ellsbridge House, Keynsham, said:
“There are many problems with this site, many of which have been admitted by the Council, yet despite this they have chosen to ignore their own information, our detailed information and just carry on with this damaging process, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is, in my opinion, impossible to develop this site as proposed. The major problems include; the very busy road, the unsuitability of a shared access with and location next to a Childrens’ Nursery, the loss of woodland, the impact on a listed building (the Nursery) and the unsuitability of the site for residential accommodation when it is between a busy main road and a recycling plant.”
Clarke Osborne, Chairman of the Stanton Wick Action Group said
“We believe that the Council are in breach of their responsibilities to ensure a proper, fair and open selection process for sites before any detailed consultation is undertaken with the public, and before any commitment is made to the possibility that any site can be developed for this purpose. We have listed no less than 16 areas where we consider the Council have failed. We, together with our colleagues in Keynsham and Radstock have gone to great lengths and considerable expense to show the Council the errors of this process but at each juncture we have been met with meaningless platitudes and left with many unanswered questions. It is highly regrettable that we have felt the need to resort to this legal challenge but the three groups consider that there is no alternative if we are to ensure that what appears to be a hurried and bungled process is fully exposed and stopped.
“We are very concerned that such a sensitive and important planning matter that will have a lasting effect on both settled and travelling communities should be dealt with in this cavalier way. With seemingly little or no regard for the required process and criteria set down by the Government, and as importantly, seemingly no regard for the views of some of their own Senior Planning Officers. It surely cannot be right that our Council should seemingly seek political gain from such conduct and seek to justify and defend these errors and wasted money.”