Traveller site to extend into green belt despite "dangerous precedent" fearsBy Jon Nurse
November 01, 2012
A traveller site will be extended on to green belt land despite warnings it could set a ‘dangerous precedent’.
Plans to expand Twyford Orchards on to 0.64 hectares of green belt were unanimously approved by Wokingham Borough Council’s executive last Thursday.
Twyford ward member Councillor Dee Tomlin raised the issue that building on the green belt would set a dangerous precedent.
But Cllr Keith Baker, executive member for highways and planning, strongly disagreed, stating Traveller sites may be built on green belt land under exceptional circumstances.
The site in London Road has serious fire and safety issues because of overcrowding, which Cllr Baker classed as exceptional.
The £1.2 million project will increase the size of the pitches to have 10 on the existing site and 10 on neighbouring land, which the council is negotiating to lease.
Responding to Cllr Tomlin’s question about why the overcrowding had not been dealt with earlier, Cllr Baker said: “We made a decision early on that we would not evict these eight families but as part of the work to address the fire safety issues we would try to accommodate an extra four pitches.
“I would be surprised if you, as a Liberal Democrat councillor, would not be supporting the efforts to keep these extended families together if at all possible.
“Or are you abandoning your party’s principles and simply acting as a political opportunist?”
Cllr Tomlin was unhappy with the party comment and leader of the council Cllr David Lee stepped in agreeing it was unacceptable.
The approved proposals allow for £1.4 million of funding, including £575,000 secured from the Homes and Communities Agency.
A planning application for the site is expected to be submitted in the next month.