More traveller sites for Basildon?

MORE travellers sites could be built across the borough after council bosses hired consultants to work out where to put them.

The news comes just days after councillors gave the green light to plans for a new 15-pitch traveller site on land off Gardiners Way, Basildon, which could house some of the families evicted from Dale Farm last October.

More than a year after the £7million eviction, boffins from Swansea University are being paid £40,000 to assess the need for new sites for gipsies, travellers and travelling show people across the borough over the next 20 years.

Opinion Research Services, a spin off company from the university, will carry out surveys until June next year before a report goes to councillors and it is decided how many more sites are needed and where they should go.

Tony Ball, council leader, said: “The results of this will feed into our core strategy for our local development framework in the same way we need to assess the level of housing needed in the area.”

Under regional targets set by the for Government Office of the East of England, the council had to provide at least 62 new pitches.

However, these targets will be officially scrapped on January 3. A council report about the decision to employ the firm said: “The issue of gipsy and travellers accommodation is a high priority for the council and has attracted a significant amount of media attention.

The High Court has also recommended that the Council actively progress a consideration of accommodation need to demonstrate that we are having regard to the travelling community requirements.

“In order to demonstrate the impartiality of the Council and have a study conducted with specialist knowledge external consultants need to be commissioned.”

The study is happening despite the fact the Essex Planning Officers Association is preparing a county-wide study.

The report said this would not be completed in time to keep up with Basildon’s timetable and will not be to the same level of detail. Stuart Hardwick-Carruthers, a campaigner for travellers, said: “This is something the council should have tackled several years ago, and it may even have avoided the need for the evictions.”

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