Views sought over caravan pitch sites

PUBLISHED: 17:01 10 May 2007 | UPDATED: 10:21 31 May 2010

RESIDENTS views are being sought on the contentious issue of where to locate new caravan pitches for gypsies and travellers in Essex. The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) launched a public consultation on Tuesday, to assess how residents across t

RESIDENTS' views are being sought on the contentious issue of where to locate new caravan pitches for gypsies and travellers in Essex.

The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) launched a public consultation on Tuesday, to assess how residents across the county feel about the issue.

It follows independent research published by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the EERA in March, which found that the East of England needed 1,220 more caravan pitches for gypsies and travellers by 2011 and that the shortage of sites had contributed to the problem of unauthorised caravan pitches.

Cllr John Reynolds, Chair of the EERA's Regional Planning

Panel, said: "Increasing the availability of legal caravan pitches will provide suitable places for gypsies and travellers to live and help tackle the problem of unauthorised sites, now and in years to come."

The 12-week consultation invites responses from members of the public and organisations in Essex, to help establish the best strategy for providing more space for travellers.

Two basic options have been drawn up. Option one suggests distributing pitches across the county based on where research has identified particular need, leading to an additional 438 pitches in Essex.

Option two is based on option one but stipulates that there must be at least 15 pitches created in each district or borough.

This would lead to 405 new pitches in the county.

Under option one, Uttlesford would be likely to be asked to provide 12 new pitches for travellers. Under option two, the district council would be expected to provide the bare minimum of 15.

A study undertaken in January 2006 estimated there were 31 authorised pitches in the district, and no unauthorised ones.

Basildon contains more pitches than any other district, with an estimated 119 authorised and 109 unauthorised in January 2006.

Overall it is estimated that 26 per cent of travellers' caravans in Essex are unauthorised and the EERA's consultation aims to establish an approach to reduce this figure.

Cllr Reynolds said: "This public consultation is a real chance for everyone in the settled and travelling communities in Essex to learn more about the options on the table and to have their say on the number and distribution of these additional pitches."

The 12-week consultation closes at the end of July. For further information and response forms, visit www.eera.gov.uk

Following consideration of the responses, EERA will publish its proposal in winter 2007/8.

This will be subject to further public consultation before being finally determined by the Government in 2009.

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