Parish council to write to Prime Minister over gyspy site policy

WHILE Horsham District Council puts pressure on parishes to search for further gypsy and traveller sites, Billingshurst councillors plan to ‘go to the top’ and write a letter to the PM questioning the gypsy site allocation policy.

The West Sussex Gypsy and Traveller Accomodation Needs Assessment, published in 2007, established a requirement for 39 pitches in the district between 2006 and 2011.

The council identified 13 potential gypsy and traveller sites, equating to 62 pitches, but 21 of these pitches have now been considered ’undeliverable’.

These include ten pitches at Smithers Rough, two at a former depot in Warnham, five at Honeybridge Lane at Dial Post, and four at Fewhurst, near Coneyhurst road in Billingshurst.

However, the government is doing a further call for sites as the National Planning Policy Framework, due to be published in March 2012, is likely to include a requirement for councils to come up with a five year supply of pitches.

Councillors at Billingshurst parish meeting on Wednesday night (March 7) were outraged at this policy and agreed to write a letter to the PM to voice their concern as Ken Longhurst pointed out that ‘he’s the boss’.

However, in a Horsham District Council meeting on Tuesday (March 13), Sally Stallan, senior planning officer, said they feel they ‘should progress ahead with the site allocation’ as they ‘need to catch up’.

Ian Howard, chairman, said: “It is vital that we work with the parishes so to come up with sites and see where something can go because the gypsies won’t go away.”

Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst) replied: “I would like to say that we are getting rather more than our far share in Billingshurst so if any other parishes would like to come forward we would be very grateful.”

Mrs Stallan responded by saying that they have to be careful when talking about ‘share’ because they have to have a certain number of pitches in each district.