26 additional gypsy and traveller pitches needed in Uttlesford over next 20 years

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden.

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden. - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford District Council must find space for 26 more gypsy and traveller pitches over the next 20 years, according to a new report.

The number pales in comparison to neighbouring districts in Essex – but there is a possibility that if other authorities cannot cater for pitches in their area that Uttlesford may have to take on an additional share.

There are currently 45 pitches in Uttlesford, mostly in the south of the district, which cater for one mobile home and one touring caravan per pitch.

It has not been decided where the 26 additional pitches will go – that will depend on the outcome of a commissioned report and public consultation.

Peter Brett Associates has been commissioned to carry out a capacity assessment of all existing sites within the district and assess those sites proposed as part of the ‘Call for Sites’ in 2012, before making recommendations to the council.

A public consultation is likely to be held in the autumn.

Cabinet member for environmental services, Councillor Susan Barker, told the Reporter gypsy and traveller sites were often met by fierce resistance from residents but that the council had a legal duty to provide appropriate accommodation.

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She said: “Gypsies and travellers already in Uttlesford have families and when their children want to get a place of their own they want to be near their family, as is the case with everybody else.

“Providing an extra 26 pitches by 2033 is not an insurmountable challenge – what we do need to do is to be realistic and plan.”

She added: “This is a challenging topic and causes a lot of debate, for both the settled and traveller communities. We will be consulting residents, parish and town councillors, as well as key stakeholders, throughout this process.”

Assistant director of planning, Andrew Taylor, confirmed there was a chance Uttlesford could end up with more than 26 pitches if, taking the example of Epping Forest - which has 92 per cent greenbelt land - a council could not provide for its requirement.

He said: “Each districts needs to do an assessment of potential sites and if it cannot find enough then it may need to talk to neighbouring authorities.

“It’s something to be aware of but we are not worried about it now.”

The need to provide additional pitches follows an Essex-wide Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA), a study which sets out the quantity of new gypsy and traveller pitches that are required to be delivered by each local authority area in the county.

Essex Planning Association spent 18 months producing the report, which was jointly commissioned by Uttlesford District Council and used a specialist gypsy and traveller research organisation.

The report includes comprehensive local need assessments and detailed studies, looks at existing provision across Essex, and assesses the accommodation and housing related needs of gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople until 2033.

Of the 14 districts in Essex, Uttlesford is accommodating a modest number of additional pitches, behind Basildon (240), Epping Forest (112), Thurrock (104), Brentwood (84), Chelmsford (55), Maldon (41) and Braintree (40).