The latest on the search for Gypsy and traveller sites in Warwick district

A Gypsy and Traveller site with permanent pitches like that which Warwick District Council must provide.
A Gypsy and Traveller site with permanent pitches like that which Warwick District Council must provide.

Time is running out for Warwick District Council to find suitable sites to provide 31 permanent pitches for Gypsies and travellers before its modified Local Plan for housing and infrastructure is submitted this year.

The authority’s executive recently decided to remove plans for a site for 15 pitches on the Campion Hills in Leamington from a meeting agenda in response to the public strength of feeling over the possible loss of the green belt land.

A Gypsy and Traveller site with permanent pitches like that which Warwick District Council must provide.

A Gypsy and Traveller site with permanent pitches like that which Warwick District Council must provide.

And the site has now been added to a growing list of possible locations which were considered but have now been dismissed.

Speaking last week, council leader Cllr Andrew Mobbs (Con, Kenilworth Abbey) said: “Conservative councillors from the Newbold Ward made representations to me on Monday and these discussions on top of the many emails I received made powerful points about the impact the loss of the land for the public.

“After consultation with the executive we decided to withdraw the item from the agenda.

“It is absolutely critical that we adhere to the need to find Gypsy and Traveller sites in our district.

“I have instructed officers to do an urgent review and we are obviously interested if any private land owners want to put forward sites for consideration.”

The council has committed to providing land for 31 permanent pitches and between six and eight transit pitches during the period in which the Local Plan takes affect - up to 2029.

But 25 of these must be delivered within the first five years of the plan.

The authority has provided an update on the sites which had been shortlisted.

Leamington Football Club’s New Windmill Ground in Harbury Lane has the potential for 15 pitches but the club would need to relocate before the land became available and the authority has committed to not invoking compulsory purchase powers.

A report regarding the site is likely to come before the full council on April 20.

Oaklands Farm in Birmingham Road, Budbrooke, was another site with the potential for 15 permanent pitches but it is no longer being considered with the cost to buy the privately-owned green belt site not being deemed viable by the council.

Land off the Fosse Way - also with the potential for 15 permanent pitches - was considered in early consultations but later excluded due to the opposition regarding the impact on the adjacent businesses and, in particular, Warwickshire Exhibition Centre.

The site is not in the green belt and suitable according to the Highway Authority.

But the landowner is not interested in promoting the land for use as a gypsy site and any progress would rely on the use of compulsory purchase powers which, again, would be unpopular and the process would not make it available within the first five years of the Local Plan.

A site on Europa Way was being considered for the transit pitches and one permanent pitch.

But this is now likely to be required for the widening of Europa Way with a final decision as to whether this will be the case due to be made this month.

A new site could now be sought to meet the transit need.

**** The latest proposal put forward for a possible place for permanent pitches for Gypsies and Travellers may have been scrapped but Warwick District Council is still looking for sites.

The council’s chief executive Chris Elliott said: “There is a proven need through the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment 2012 for 31 permanent pitches - 25 within the first five years - and between six and eight transit pitches, during the lifetime of the Local Plan up to 2029.

“The council has been exploring possible sites for some considerable time now and has so far been unsuccessful in finding land that is suitable, developable and deliverable within the time period.

“The easiest way to provide such a site is on council land since it takes away the need to find a willing landowner and negates the use of compulsory purchase of privately owned land.”

Government criteria for the location of such sites includes that they are located near schools and amenities including medical facilities and shopping, are on a regular bus route and close to the major road network.