Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Council gives commitment to local consultation on gypsy and travellers sites

At today's Communities Scrutiny Committee I secured a commitment to local consultation on sites for gypsy and travellers sites. This will be a change from the proposed policy which would have seen local councillors told about planned sites late in the day and no consultation at all with residents.

Council officers presented their proposed consultation protocol. I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues were concerned that local ward members and parish councils would be told what was proposed only when it was a done deal and that local residents would not be consulted at all.

And so I asked for proper consultation with communities and involvement of ward members from the start and drew support from councillors from all parties and my proposal was accepted by the Committee.

The Council is quite right to be trying to identify further suitable sites for gypsy and traveller pitches. Having more acceptable sites will lessen the likelihood of unauthorised encampments and mean that illegal occupants can be moved on more quickly.

But identifying suitable sites must involve local councillors as well as town and parish councils and the local community at an early stage. The draft protocol we were being asked to approve didn't use the word consultation at all. Councillors and parish councils would merely be briefed about what would happen and there would be no effort to find out the views of local people.

Councillors from all parties agreed that ignoring the views of local councillors and the local community would bring resentment rather than acceptance.

This shows that, once again, Cornwall Council seems to be centralising and only informing local councillors as an afterthought. On this issue we have managed to secure a high degree of localism and we will continue to seek the full involvement of residents and local councillors in all issues.

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