Tag Archive: legal

Feb 05 2014

Westminster Debate on Gypsy and Traveller Policy

Yesterday MPs debated the current gypsy and traveller policy with opportunity to raise local and/or national issues. It is an interesting debate reflecting many issues that we have seen locally. It is 1.5hrs long, but finishes with a response from a the government minister Nick Bowles.

The debate was moved by Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire.

 

To view you may need to download microsoft Silverlight Player.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.stantonwickactiongroup.org/westminster-debate-on-gypsy-and-traveller-policy/

Aug 20 2012

In The News…

Our legal challenge is reported in the Somerset Guardian and on the BBC website:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-19297391

and

http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Legal-challenge-launched-travellers-site-plans/story-16720757-detail/story.html

Permanent link to this article: http://www.stantonwickactiongroup.org/in-the-news/

Aug 09 2012

Judicial Review – Press Release

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.”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.stantonwickactiongroup.org/latest-news-the-judicial-review-process-begins/

Jun 19 2012

Packed Guildhall for Special Council Meeting

The Labour Group of Councillors joined the Liberal Democrats on Monday afternoon to defeat a resolution tabled by Councillor Malcolm Hanney (Chew Valley North ward), supported by Councillor Vic Pritchard (Chew Valley South Ward) and other Conservative Councillors.

The resolution called on BaNES full Council to call a temporary halt to their current deeply-flawed exercise to find and promote Gypsy and Traveller sites in BaNES, to reassess both the numerical need for sites, updating the 2007 statistics they have used and to liaise more closely with adjoining authorities in identifying appropriate sites.

It then called for BaNES to ensure a more open, fair and efficient assessment of potential sites.

Members of the Stanton Wick Action Group and the Chairs of both Publow/Pensford and Stanton Drew Parish Councils each made three minute presentations and answered questions from Councillors. There was also a very helpful presentation by Joe Evans of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Richard Harwood (our legal Counsel) made a three minute presentation and answered questions for a further 17 minutes (predominantly from Malcolm whose questions were designed to highlight the flaws in the process to date and the areas of potential challenge and to ensure key information was before the Council).

Richard, having set out the basis of his considerable experience and standing in these issues also advised that he has been appointed by BaNES in the past and had in fact turned down a request to act for BaNES in this matter having already been instructed by us. He advised that;

  • In his opinion the process was deeply flawed and would cause serious difficulty to the Council if they are legally challenged
  • That the action of pausing this process now would not harm the progress of the Core Strategy Plan through its adoption stages
  • That the failure to put right the significant errors in the process could render more harm to the progress of the Core Strategy
  • That the analysis of the numbers of pitches that should be provided was flawed and should be readdressed if it is to be robust against challenge or scrutiny by the Inspector looking at the Core Strategy

The Liberal Democrats and Labour were, however, set on keeping the current consultation process going, despite all of the errors, the harm caused and the real danger of legal challenge and delay to the implementation of the Core Strategy.

At the end of the meeting the voting for a Liberal Democrat amendment was approved by a relatively minor majority. The amendment, written before the meeting, said that the Council had listened and would take all of the points made forward to the September Cabinet Meeting and that the Council would continue with the consultation process.

In summary, the Liberal Democrats ploughed on regardless (with the exception of Jeremy Sparks), not listening to residents’ views and the warning of our Counsel. Labour members supported the LibDems. The Independents went along with the LibDems and Labour even though two of them had reason to support the motion because they each had a Children’s Nursery (Snapdragons) in their wards whose business was seriously threatened by another proposed but inappropriate ‘Preferred’ Site as a result of this flawed process. Sad for democracy, sad for decency and sad for many thousands of ratepayers in rural communities.

However, it was in fact a good day for us!

We have the full support of the Conservatives, we have a line in the sand with a very clear message of the consequences in the event that the BaNES Cabinet fail to remove sites that are not deliverable from the preferred list; and the whole Council can now be in no doubt of the weight of our argument, the ability of our advocates and professionals and the clear resolve of our communities.

TV coverage can be found here: http://www.itv.com/news/west/story/2012-06-18/bath-gypsy-sites/

We need to up the pace now, to ensure that everyone in our communities responds to the consultation, to ensure that we maintain pressure on the Cabinet to do the right thing, to ensure that every Councillor is informed, and to ensure that any legal challenge we may make is powerful and timely.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who gave presentations yesterday, who attended yesterday and all of you who continue to play your part for your community. We are strong because we are together.

Please keep working, supporting and helping your community.

If you are a “buddy” please tell your neighbors and friends – keep them informed.

We will arrange meetings so that we can all consider and debate and we are hard at work on fundraising – where we always need your help!

Thank you so much for the generous donations and the substantial underwriting – you know who you are and your community is very, very grateful.

 

Thank you

Clarke Osborne
On behalf of the Stanton Wick Action Group

Permanent link to this article: http://www.stantonwickactiongroup.org/liberal-democrats-and-labour-unite-to-defeat-conservative-resolution-at-packed-guildhall/

Jun 13 2012

Legal Team

BaNES to date seem to be rather lacking in their response to us, so we have decided to engage a legal team:

Our solicitor is Matthew Knight, Senior Partner at Knights Solicitors, who specialises in gypsy and traveller issues.
More details can be found at: http://www.knights-solicitors.co.uk/about-us/people-profiles/matthew-knight-%11-senior-partner/

Our barrister is Richard Harwood of 39 Essex Street Chambers.  Richard will be speaking on our behalf at the Special Council Meeting on Monday 18th June 2012 starting at 1 pm at The Guildhall Bath.
More details can be found at: http://www.39essex.com/members/profile.php?id=54

Permanent link to this article: http://www.stantonwickactiongroup.org/legal-team/

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