All consultation responses and supporting evidence regarding Central Bedfordshire Council’s Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan have been submitted to the Secretary of State this week.
The most recent consultation ran from 17 February to 31 March and received more than 1,556 responses (plus a petition against the site in Barton le Clay with approximately 2,800 signatures). All of these, along with responses received in previous formal consultations, will now be considered by an independent Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to determine whether the Plan is ‘sound’ and legally compliant.
It is expected that the Inspector will hold a Public Examination this coming autumn. Individuals who made objections and sought changes to the document during the formal consultation and requested to attend the hearings will be invited to attend the hearing sessions to present their argument to the Planning Inspector verbally.
For those who do not wish to attend the hearing sessions, the Planning Inspector will still consider their written comments and all comments, whether made in writing or verbally at the hearings, will carry the same weight.
Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Strategic Planning, said: “The sheer volume of responses proves what we already knew – that this is a challenging topic and causes a lot of debate for both the settled and traveller communities.
“Debate or not though, we have a legal duty to provide appropriate accommodation and this is what the Plan sets out to do. The feedback from the local community has been really valuable and has influenced the process so now we’ve given everything to the Secretary of State and will await a decision later in the year.”
After the examination hearings, the Planning Inspector will issue a report setting out their conclusions, identifying whether the Plan is ‘sound’ or needs any changes. If the Plan is considered to be ‘sound’, the Council will be asked to adopt the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan.
Jason Longhurst, Director of Regeneration and Businesses, added: “This Local Plan has been drawn up over many months and is the product of extensive consultation with a number of groups. This included comprehensive local need assessments and detailed studies but it will now be subject to further concentrated scrutiny by a Planning Inspector.”
“We need to show that the Plan meets the test of ‘soundness’ – that it complies with the law and meets the need within our area in a sustainable way.”
For more information about the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan or to view the Submission documents please visit: www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/gypsytravellerplan Alternatively, copies of the Submission documents can be viewed at the Council Offices in Chicksands and Dunstable during opening hours.
Those consultees wanting to stay in touch can sign up to the council’s email bulletins at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/updates If you have any queries about the Gypsy and Traveller Local Plan please contact the LDF team by email at LDF@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk or by calling 0300 300 4353.