Date of Proceeding: 20.06.2007
Reference: 461 c482WH
Member: Lilley, Peter
Title: Gypsies and Travellers (Hertfordshire)
Description: I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Anne Main),who is a fellow Member for the St. Albans district, on securing the debate and on introducing it in such a thorough but sensitive way.
There is great concern throughout the St. Albans district, not least in the part that I represent, about the current proposals, which, strangely, only became public on any scale after the local elections. People in Redbourn are concerned because there is already an authorised site, as well as unauthorised sites. People in Kinsbourne Green and Harpenden Rural are concerned because they are quite near Redbourn, and several new sites are proposed near them. Likewise, people in Wheathampstead are concerned because potential sites have been identified right next to residential areas. There is concern throughout the rural part of my constituency about what such developments could mean.
I have met several delegations and visited potential sites, and although my constituents are concerned, they are extremely reasonable: they accept that travellers must live somewhere and want good relationships between the travelling and the settled communities. However, they also want a fair, transparent and balanced approach to be taken when deciding how many sites should be allocated and where they should be, but they do not see the current proposals as fair in substance or procedure.
St. Albans district council already has a quarter of all the authorised sites and more than half the unauthorised sites in Hertfordshire, but it is now being told that it must accept 30 per cent. of the additional sites. However, St. Albans district council is only one of the 10 councils, covers only 10 per cent. of the area of Hertfordshire and has only 13 per cent. of the population, so why are things being done in this way? The answer is that the formula that is being used says that the number of new pitches required in any area will be equal to 40 per cent. of the number of authorised pitches plus the number of unauthorised pitches that the area already has. My area already has a large number of authorised and unauthorised pitches, so it is expected to have a lot more pitches in future. The more pitches an area has agreed to have in the past, therefore, the more it is expected to have in the future; the more it has had to put up in the past-even though they may have been illegal and unauthorised-the more it will have to put up with in the future. People do not think that that is fair.