Posted: Fri 20th Oct 2023

Efforts to Find Potential Gypsy Traveller Sites in Gwent Face Last-Minute Bid to Restart Process /
This article is old - Published: Friday, Oct 20th, 2023

EFFORTS to find potential Gypsy Traveller sites in one area of Gwent face a last-minute bid to force the process to start over. 
Three potential sites to be put forward for consultation – so people could have their say on them – were agreed at the start of October, but a meeting to be held next week could force a rethink on the selected locations. 
It had been intended the six-week consultation would open yesterday, October 18, but the intervention of three independent councillors has put those plans on ice. 
The sites at Bradbury Farm and Oak Grove Farm, both in Crick, and a previously identified field behind Langley Close in Magor, were approved for consultation by Monmouthshire County Council’s Labour-led cabinet on October 4. 
However Cllr Francis Taylor, who represents Magor West, and Llanelly Hill member Simon Howarth and David Jones, who represents Crucorney – who both sit in the Independent Group led by Cllr Taylor – have used the council’s call in process to force a second look at the decision. 
That means a cabinet member, likely to be deputy leader Cllr Paul Griffiths, who has responsibility for identifying the potential sites, will have to appear before a special meeting of the council’s place scrutiny committee to justify his original decision. 
The committee will meet at County Hall, in Usk, on Monday, October 23, at 4pm, though part of the meeting could be held behind closed doors if personal or financial matters, relating to individuals or families, or existing or potential sites are disclosed. 
If the nine-member cross-party committee isn’t happy with the answers it could order the cabinet to reconsider the decision or refer the issue to the full council which could force the cabinet to look again at its decision. 
The independent councillors say they have called the decision in as they claim the process in identifying the sites has been “flawed” and there remains “multiple concerns about the integrity of the process, perceived inconsistencies, and erroneous information”. 
They have also disputed the recommendation from a July scrutiny committee, which said the cabinet should re-start the process of selecting sites, has been followed. Cllr Grifiths has already told a full council debate, when Cllr Taylor’s previous bid to remove the Langley Close site and another in Undy from consideration was defeated, that he had taken on board the feedback. 
Cllr Griffiths said he took a fresh look at all council owned land including plots previously not under consideration as they had been listed as suitable for potential residential development. That process resulted in the agricultural fields in Crick being put forward. 
The Chepstow Caslte and Larkfield councillor also said the cabinet has reconsidered the Langley Close site but “reached a different decision” to those who oppose its possible inclusion in the development plan. 
Other issues raised by the councillors include the need for investigation of possible contamination and noise impact at the sites, including Langley Close which is next to the M4, and the possible cost of the investigations. 
They say only carrying out any investigations if the sites eventually progress to a planning application “could lead to significant cost to the authority”. 
The council has said the assessed local need show demand for 10 or 11 pitches over the life of its replacement local development plan which will guide land use in the county through to 2033. 
It has said a pitch is around 320 square metres which would accommodate a vehicle, caravan and amenity block. Ten pitches across the county requires less than one acre of land. 
Both Crick sites are in the Portskewett ward and its Conservative councillor, Lisa Dymock, has registered an e-petition on the council’s website that has been signed by more than 470 people stating the sites to be “unsuitable”. 
The council is proposing to consult on including the three fields as identified potential Gypsy Traveller sites in the replacement local development plan. 
The full council is to be asked to agree the strategy for the plan at its full meeting on Thursday, October 26 and if the scrutiny committee refers the decision on the Gypsy Traveller site to the full council it will also be considered at that meeting. 
The cabinet isn’t expected to make a decision on which Gypsy Traveller sites should be included in the plan until December and the full council is likely to be asked to approve the plan as a whole in April or May next year. It will then be put out for another round of public consultation before it is submitted to the Welsh Government in September 2024. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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