Residents and Action Groups celebrate removal of Stanton Wick, Keynsham and Radstock Sites from B&NES’ Gypsy and Traveller Plans
For immediate release
Local residents and Action Groups are celebrating B&NES’ permanent removal of controversial proposed sites at Stanton Wick, Radstock and Keynsham from a list of ‘Preferred’ Gypsy and Traveller sites.
At a B&NES Cabinet meeting on Wednesday night, Councillors finally reacted to months of pressure and judicial review litigation from Action Groups and local residents, officially removing all three sites from consideration (The Old Colliery in Stanton Wick, the former Infants’ School Canteen in Radstock, and land near to Ellsbridge House, Keynsham).
The LibDem Cabinet and B&NES’ Chief Executive Dr Jo Farrar, heard submissions from all three Action Groups and a number of Labour and Conservative Councillors, that yet again challenged the site selection process as being flawed both in concept and delivery, unlawful and deeply damaging to the communities affected.
Following these presentations, Cllr Tim Ball (Lib-Dem, Twerton), Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, moved an amendment to officially remove all three sites at Keynsham, Radstock and Stanton Wick – from the list.
The long-overdue removal of the sites follows a Judicial Review application by claimants on behalf of the three Action Groups seeking to challenge the process of site selection in law. In July, solicitors Knight’s representing the claimants wrote to B&NES setting out the reasons why the site selection process undertaken by the Council has been “unreasonable, irrational, unlawful and procedurally irregular”.
Clarke Osborne, Chair of Stanton Wick Action Group said:
“At last, the B&NES Cabinet has finally seen sense and removed these three wholly unsuitable, unsustainable, and undeliverable sites from this list.
“I am in no doubt that this would not have happened if it wasn’t for the pending Judicial Review, and the very hard work of local residents and Action Groups who since May have presented overwhelming evidence of the unsuitability of the sites, as well as a flawed, disingenuous and predetermined process.
“On behalf of all three Action Groups, I would like to thank everyone associated with achieving this result: all those who have made their views known, attended meetings, made presentations, written letters and emails, and assisted with fundraising.
“Yet while this victory is very welcome and long overdue, it has come at a very real financial and emotional cost to many people. B&NES’ wilful disregard to their residents’ views, independent planning reports, and legal advice, mean fundraising efforts to recoup costs are still required.
“The truth is that the behaviour of B&NES’ LibDem Cabinet and their approach to this process has had a significantly damaging effect on many of their rural constituents’ lives. Not only in respect of their businesses and their savings, but also the extraordinary amount of time individuals have spent researching, writing letters, attending meetings, campaigning, and fundraising. To many this has meant taking time off work, cancelling holidays and spending any of their spare time battling a Cabinet which, far from ‘listening to residents’, has appeared disinterested, intransigent and arrogant.”
“Both settled and traveller communities have already been badly let down by B&NES; we can only hope that lessons have been learned and that similar errors can be avoided as this flawed, discredited and delayed process limps on.
“We applaud the determination of B&NES to work hard in meeting the Government targets for the provision of sites for both permanent and transit populations of Gypsies and Travellers and we have sympathy in the difficulties that this presents; but there can be no excuse for what we regard as incompetent, insensitive and arrogant behaviour.
“The communities have spoken, and I sincerely hope that they will maintain this voice and demand more from their Local Authority and take more control of the future planning of their local environment. It is called Localism”