Plans to find new gypsy and traveller sites in Stockton are a step closer to being sent back to the drawing board.
At yesterday’s meeting of Stockton Council’s Cabinet, Council Leader Bob Cook tabled a recommendation that the process should be started afresh.
Councillor Cook also recommended the Council seek the Secretary of State’s reassurance that this will not hold up the progress of its overall Local Plan.
The recommendation was agreed by Cabinet and will now be considered by Full Council when it meets on Wednesday (July 23).
Councillor Cook said: “This has been one of the most talked about topics in recent years. The level of public interest has been phenomenal and has shown us that local people – whether they are from the settled community or the gypsy and travelling community – do not consider the six sites we have shortlisted to be suitable and want us to reconsider our approach.
“Cabinet’s recommendation to Council is that we take these six sites off the table and go back to the drawing board. The recommendation is also that we write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask for his reassurance that this will not hold back the development of our overall Local Plan, especially as a similar approach has been allowed in other local authorities.”
Earlier this year, the Council carried out a six week consultation on six sites it had identified as potentially suitable for the accommodation of gypsies and travellers.
The consultation prompted 565 individual representations, four petitions signed by almost 850 people, and a letter of objection supported by 55 neighbours.
Since then, the landowner of the single privately-owned site among the six shortlisted has withdrawn the site from the process.
Councillor Cook said: “We have said from the outset that there would be plenty of opportunity for everyone to have their say and that all of the views received will be taken on board. I hope that by making this recommendation it shows that when we ask people for their views, we do listen and take everything into account.
“We need to be very clear that this is not about evading the issue; it is about making sure we do not hurry this through in order to meet national planning guidelines only to arrive at a solution that is not acceptable to local people.”