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First list of traveller sites not ruled out

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: August 31, 2012

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The row over possible locations for traveller sites in the area rages on.

The selection process has been dogged by controversy since the first list of proposals was revealed by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

It had been thought that campaigners had won their battle to remove sites at Radstock, Stanton Wick and Keynsham but it has now emerged that although councillors say they are "unlikely" to form part of a final plan they have not been ruled out.

A list of a further 27 sites, suggested by residents, has been put forward for discussion at a meeting on September 12.

Of these, many will be automatically discounted because the land is not available, but sites that could be given the go-ahead include Clandown Rec, which has been put forward by Radstock councillor Eleanor Jackson, land near Mill Lane, Radford, put forward by Ms C Richards, and a site at Quarry Garage, Eastcourt Road, Temple Cloud, suggested by Mr M Wilson.

However, B&NES is stressing that no assessments have been carried out by the council as to their suitability and it is in the process of confirming sites and ownership.

Other locations suggested by residents but not available include the Crossways Caravan Site at Dunkerton, council buildings on Radstock Road, Midsomer Norton, Roundhill playing field, Radstock, and both Trinity and Radstock Allotments.

At a meeting of the planning, transport and environment scrutiny committee last Thursday, residents and councillors criticised the authority's flawed site selection process.

Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for homes and planning, was pressed to confirm that the sites proposed for Radstock, Stanton Wick and Keynsham had been ruled out.

However, despite previous statements by the Liberal Democrats that they had been rejected, Mr Ball would only reiterate that these sites were "highly unlikely" to form part of the council's final plans.

Conservative councillors have slammed the selection process as a "debacle" and called on the Lib Dem cabinet to start afresh.

Councillor Geoff Ward, Conservative shadow cabinet member for homes and planning who also sits on the scrutiny panel, said: "B&NES seems to determined to turn what is already a shambles into a debacle. First the Lib Dems put forward sites which are unsuitable, then they say they are withdrawing three of them, then they backtrack on this.

"Now the council has published a list of 27 new locations which have been suggested as possible traveller sites, but with no analysis of their suitability or deliverability.

"Publishing sites which are complete non-starters, without any assessment of their viability, will simply cause further undue alarm among residents."

Radstock town council chairwoman Lesley Mansell said she was bemused as to why the new sites in Radstock had been suggested.

Mrs Mansell said: "Considering the success of Team GB at the Olympics there is a national call to preserve play and sports spaces for children. Further, we see an increase in demand for allotments in Radstock."

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