LAST week, the Council’s cabinet abandoned a report their were due to present at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, which proposed to begin a formal consultation on the merits of four sites for the gypsy and traveller community.
All councils have a legal duty to provide sites for gypsies and travellers and have to do an assessment of their needs at least every five years. The latest assessment indicated that Monmouthshire County Council had to identify a further 13 pitches.
Each individual pitch has to be big enough for a mobile home of up to 20 metres in length and 6.8 metres in width, a smaller touring caravan, an amenity block connected to water, drainage and electricity, parking for up to two vehicles, with each space measuring 2.4 by 4.8 metres and space for bins and drying clothes.
The Council has come under fire for the way in which a shortlist (of largely unsuitable sites) has been drawn up. A shortlist of four sites was published a week before a council scrutiny was due to meet to study the plans and make recommendations to the cabinet.
It was disappointing that before the committee had even met to consider evidence from members of the public and councillors who had been out to visit the sites, the cabinet had already published their recommendations to proceed to consultation regardless.
The committee concluded that none of the sites put forward were suitable and should all be rejected. In last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, the report was dropped and the Cabinet Member announced that the Manson Heights and Mitchel Troy sites would be withdrawn but that a review would take place over the summer and the sites in Magor and Undy would remain in the process for further evaluation.
The sites at Manson Heights and Mitchel Troy Common were unsuitable for many reasons, but primarily due to poor access and the risks of significant environmental damage.
However, I understand residents in Magor and Undy have a number of valid concerns also. The Cabinet has now put out a call to landowners and members of the public to suggest pieces of land, even if it isn’t in that individual’s ownership, which is a welcome step.
I hope as part of this process they will also be engaging meaningfully with the gypsy and traveller community themselves because they need to be at the heart of this, having previously dismissed the shortlisted sites as unsuitable.