ALL local authorities have a legal duty to provide suitable sites for the gypsy traveller community and every few years they have to do an assessment to ensure they have sufficient pitches to meet demand.

The council is currently trying to identify additional provision for around 13 gypsy traveller households.

However, it is far from clear how the administration got to this stage, having gradually whittled down a list of 1,500 council-owned sites to now a shortlist of four – all of which are completely unsuitable. Two are in Mitchel Troy, one in Magor and one in Manson near Osbaston.

All four immediately back on to existing properties in direct conflict with the guidance from the gypsy traveller community themselves that they prefer sites which are somewhat detached from the settled community to avoid conflict and hostility.

All four have major access problems and even when senior councillors and officers came to visit the sites last week they had to park their coach some distance away because it couldn’t navigate the narrow windy roads – presumably the same problems that anyone towing a large caravan would encounter.

The council has set out the most ridiculous timetable for the process, which doesn’t allow adequate scrutiny of the proposals. These sites first went into the public domain late on Tuesday last week and are due to be discussed by a cross party committee of councillors today (Wednesday).

However, the cabinet is due to make its decision on which sites to proceed to a statutory consultation on Wednesday, July 26.

While you might think that gives senior councillors seven days to reflect on what they’ve heard from the public and councillors in committee, the reality is that the recommendations for that meeting have to be published a minimum of five working days before.

This means the reality is that when the public and councillors share their views in committee, the cabinet will have already decided how they’re going to proceed and the papers for their decision-making meeting on July 26 will already have been put to bed.

So what is the point in taking the sites to scrutiny if you’re not going to take a blind bit of notice what they conclude?

Only now is the council putting out an appeal to landowners asking if they have suitable sites in their ownership. Why wasn’t this done last autumn? This process has been far from clear and the best thing cabinet members can do now is rule out these unsuitable sites and go back to the drawing board.