Concern over prospective gypsy and traveller sites in Uttlesford

Cllr Susan Barker

Cllr Susan Barker - Credit: Archant

Controversy is brewing in a small Uttlesford village after a council-commissioned report earmarked an area of land for use by gypsies and travellers.

One Wicken Bonhunt resident branded the findings “absolutely appalling” – arguing that the five-acre site for up to 12 gypsy and traveller pitches in nearby Arkesden was “unsustainable”.

In July, Uttlesford District Council (UDC) announced that 26 pitches would be needed in the district over the next 30 years.

A report has now been completed to identify the most suitable sites, focusing on those likely to be approved for use between 2013 and 2018.

Nine pitches are required over the next four years. The proposed location of these will be discussed at a council meeting in November, before a public consultation opens in December.

Joan Morgan, chair of the Wicken Bonhunt village meeting, was critical of the report by Peter Brett Associates.

She said: “There’s nothing about sustainability, infrastructure, or provision for children in the reports. It’s a very dangerous area, with no pavements, no lights and no education provision – the schools are full.”

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The 2.2 hectare site has historically been used by travellers and gypsies, both as a stopping place and residence.

A spokesman for Peter Brett Associates said the company was “experts in assessing gypsy and traveller sites” and used “an extremely robust methodology”.

Other villages where sites have been put forward are Radwinter, Great Canfield, Great Leighs and Hempstead.

Councillor Susan Barker, cabinet member for environmental services, acknowledged the council had a tough call to make.

“It’s an emotive issue. We are going out to consult and consider different sites and then we do have to make a decision,” she said.