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Council refutes claim that Wycombe has open door policy for gypsies
WYCOMBE now has an open door policy to travellers, it has been claimed, after a controversial application was approved.
Officials at Wycombe District Council have strongly refuted the suggestion from Wycombe Labour researcher Dr Linda Derrick, but she insists the authority has failed to do its job.
The Conservative controlled council's planning committee gave permission for a travellers to allow an extra caravan at their pitch in Great Kingshill, despite protests from residents.
Despite the fact the development is considered inappropriate for the Green Belt officers recommended it for approval because the council has fallen behind in its government set target for gypsy sites in the area.
There is a deficit of 12 travellers' pitches in Wycombe, which officers said meant it had “very special circumstances”.
Dr Derrick lambasted the decision, saying: “It's appalling because the travellers can just decide where they want to go and in theory they buy can land in the area and go wherever they like.
“It's not just Kingshill it could be anywhere in Wycombe. It's an open door policy because Wycombe now is very vulnerable.
“The mobile homes are huge and its detrimental to the Green Belt but they're allowed because there aren't sufficient sites.
“It's the failure of the council to do their jobs which means they can not turn down the application.”
However, caravans on the site have been allowed by law, going back as far as 1962.
Council spokesman Sue Robinson said it has a robust policy on travellers sites and cited recent examples, such as the Hemley Hill Traveller development in late 2010, for which it took action and subsequently won a major appeal.
She said: “We strongly refute the suggestion that any failure on the part of the council has led to an open door policy and vulnerability to traveller site proposals.
“We have shown in recent years that we are following this policy by refusing to grant planning permission where these criteria are breached.
"We have backed up these refusals with stringent planning enforcement action where necessary.
“We are currently preparing for a Public Inquiry where we will strongly defend the enforcement notices we have issued for the unauthorised Hedgerow Traveller site in Walters Ash.”
The council said it had stated its objections to the government last year when it introduced the latest requirements on gypsy sites, saying it had been given too little time to update and implement the policy.
Officials are now working on a Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment alongside all other Buckinghamshire districts.