Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, condemned new Government circulars forcing local councils to plan a massive expansion in traveller sites in the St Albans District – including possible sites near Redbourn, Wheathampstead and Kinsbourne Green. He said that the District already has nearly 40% of all the plots in Hertfordshire and that the British government should consult with the Irish government to co-ordinate fair provision for genuine travellers.

    Peter said, “The Government has introduced new circulars and guidance which are forcing councils to plan for a massive increase in the number of plots. As a result, Councils in South and West Hertfordshire are being required to plan for an extra 90 plots – a 55% increase on the current official provision.

    “Back in the late 1980’s councils were required to provide official sites to meet the needs of genuine travellers. Given St Albans District Council had to accept 40% of all plots in Hertfordshire it was understood that for St Albans, this would be a lasting settlement and this district would not be required to take any more.

    ”In addition to the size of the actual increase the process involves identifying far more possible sites than will be needed even for this massive expansion. So neighbours will suffer potential planning blight and uncertainty around every possible site.

    “Before initiating this process the Government should have undertaken a national survey. Why is such a massive increase envisaged in this area? If it is partly because of illegal encampments, what guarantee is there that they will be closed if new legal plots are provided?

    “It has been suggested that the growth in numbers is due to Irish Travellers spending more time in the UK because of changes in the rules in Ireland. Of course there should be fair provision for travellers but surely the Government should consult with the Irish government to plan a joint policy – rather than England and the Home Counties becoming the ‘providers of last resort’.”