Council accused of ‘unbelievable side-step’ over Arkesden gypsy and traveller site

Cllr Jan Menell implored Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to have the information required by resid

Cllr Jan Menell implored Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to have the information required by residents in time for the next working group meeting. - Credit: Archant

“An unbelievable side-step” by the council has angered residents, who have been told they will have to wait until after the election for a decision on a proposed gypsy and traveller site.

At a full council meeting last Thursday, Littlebury Councillor Jan Menell made an impassioned plea on behalf of residents near Five Acres, a site between Arkesden and Wicken Bonhunt earmarked for 12 pitches, which objectors argue is prone to flooding and inherently unsuitable.

Opponents hoped to get results of the site’s sewage and drainage inspection back by the next meeting of the planning policy working group on March 30 – but it now seems the information will come a day later, meaning a decision on the site may not be made until June.

“Their aim and mine that evening was to convince the working group that a possible site was unsustainable,” said Cllr Menell, who attended the second meeting of the group on Monday with more than 100 residents.

“They and I left with the feeling that we were at last being listened to, and we were rather pleased with the new look consultation process – transparent, is the word I think.

“However, within 24 hours they had become utterly disillusioned with this council, its offices, and I’m sorry to say its leader.”

“Their reaction is that this is scandalous, shows no respect for the community, is a cynical approach and an unbelievable side-step,” added Cllr Menell, who implored the chairman to have the information ready by the next meeting.

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Replying to the accusations, Cllr Rolfe said: “It would have been wholly inappropriate to have made a decision at the meeting.

“We need to find nine pitches in the next five years. My conscience is totally clear.”

Currently, UDC is legally obliged to allocate nine gypsy and traveller pitches in the district by 2018, and a total of 26 by 2033. Sites in Hempstead, Takeley, Radwinter End and Bartholomew Green have also been earmarked as possibilities where the pitches could go.