Cheshire faces up to gypsy protesters

Cheshire West & Chester Council leader, Cllr Mike Jones, has defended plans to create six gypsy and traveller sites.

More than 300 members of the public attended Wednesday's executive meeting where members decided to note an independent consultant's report recommending the sites and to move forward to the planning application stage.

Certain residents object to the plans which include turning Oakwood Farm in Saughall, a green field site, into a 15-pitch transit camp.

Jones said: "This is merely the start of a necessary process. Moving to the planning stage will allow full public consultation.

"I can assure everyone that the major issues raised in respect of all of these sites – both last night and in the forthcoming consultation – will be reviewed in full."

He added: "At the moment we have a process of anarchy – if not chaos – in the way that sites in open countryside and the Green Belt can be developed by the gypsy and traveller community in a way that you or I cannot.

"They can park a caravan up, make a claim they are a gypsy and traveller community and get planning permission. If refused, they can win on appeal.

"We have 38 sites that have been randomly created because we have lost appeals in this way. That is not acceptable for our communities.

"There are also 24 sites with temporary planning permission, again randomly created where individuals have bought land to site caravans on."

The leader told members that the government had made promises about dealing with the issue but were not doing so because of difficulties they had to comply with.

"Indeed there is a consultation paper out now that actually puts a more onerous requirement on this Council by requiring a five-year commitment of provision of sites for gypsies and travellers," he said.

Cllr Jones called on MPs to change the rules that the council and other local authorities had to comply with.

He said: "The removal of those sorts of requirements would be incredibly helpful to give this council a bit more flexibility on how it deals with these sorts of problems."

Cllr Lynne Riley, executive member for community and environment, said: "Please do not think that we are not very aware of how strong the public feeling is.

"But there are communities out there where feelings run equally high because they have for many years heard from colleagues of mine that there is nothing that we can do about these unlawful developments.

"Our failure to deliver viable solutions has meant many communities have been impacted in a negative way because this authority has had no control over what takes place on these sites."

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