TWO new potential Gypsy Traveller sites have been identified by Monmouthshire council which has also ruled out one of two plots previously put forward.
The ruling Labour-led cabinet is set to agree which sites should go forward for public consultation when it meets on October 4 and the councillor now responsible for the search has said three sites will be under consideration.
But Chepstow member Paul Griffiths has said land next to the M4 at Dancing Hill in Undy is no longer being considered however a field behind homes at Langley Close, in nearby Magor, remains on the table for possible inclusion as a potential site in the the council’s replacement Local Development Plan.
The other two sites haven’t been named but Cllr Griffiths told the full council’s September meeting he has also reviewed land previously exempt from consideration due to it having been identified as having the potential for employment or residential development.
He told the council: “I’ve moved that block.”
At the council meeting a motion put forward by Magor West member, Frances Taylor, asked the council to endorse the decision of the council’s scrutiny committee, which in July said none of the five sites originally shortlisted were suitable, and asked it to also reject the Langley Close and Dancing Hill sites, which the cabinet said were still being considered.
But though the Dancing Hill site has now been withdrawn Cllr Griffiths asked councillors to reject the motion as he said Langley Close shouldn’t yet be ruled out and should be considered by the cabinet before a “very thorough public consultation”.
He told councillors: “If you accept the motion to exclude Langley Close my fear is the council may be open to judicial review on any other site.”
As well as identifying new sites Cllr Griffiths said he also “encouraged further work” with Traveller families to look at the possibility of gaining planning permission on their existing accommodation.
In July the council had said it had been looking at up to five sites with a potential to accommodate a total of 13 pitches, to meet the identified need of local Gypsy Traveller families.
Cllr Grifiths said that need is now 10 or 11 pitches and that a pitch is around 320 square metres “sufficient for a vehicle, caravan and amenity block. Ten pitches across the county requires less than one acre of land. The county has 200,000 acres its O.7 of that, a football pitch, or just under a football pitch across the whole county.”
He also said Langley Close is a 5.7 acre plot and if it was used for five pitches it would take up just 10 per cent of the land.
Cllr Taylor, who earlier in the meeting had presented a 1,200 signature petition from residents in Magor and Undy that acknowledged the scrutiny committee had decided the sites put forward were unsuitable and called for plans for Dancing Hill and Langley Close to be withdrawn due to the “overdevelopment” in the area.
The Independent Group councillor said the petition has been running for only three weeks and the signatures represent 20 per cent of the area’s 6,000 total population, or 25 per cent of adults.
The area also saw 13 per cent of development in the council’s last agreed Local Development Plan and Cllr Taylor asked: “Where is our amenity land? There is no space for sports. The football club is at saturation point, I’ve looked for rugby and cricket pitches. We live on the Gwent Levels and development is not consistent with the requirement to protect the area.”
She asked councillors to support her motion which she said was about “the principles of this council’s democratic process” in upholding the decision of the scrutiny committee: “The key point for me is scrutiny, do you value it? How can you take some sites out and not others just like that?”
She also reminded councillors the cross party committee, including Labour members, had said all the sites were unsuitable and had highlighted problems with them including access and they did not meet the standards for Gypsy Traveller sites set out by the Welsh Government.
Conservative councillor for Devauden Rachel Buckler said “quite rightly” the council has a duty to provide Gypsy Traveller sites but said those considered by the scrutiny committee had been met with objections from “both the Gypsy Traveller and settled community”.
The motion to support the scrutiny committee decision and strike out the Dancing Hill and Langley Close sites was defeated by 22 votes to 21 with all Labour councillors and two Green/independent members voting against while all the Conservatives and Independent Group councillors voted in favour of it.