Devon

Plymouth council scraps Efford gypsy and traveller plan

2009 protest poster
Image caption In 2009 there were protests over the plans for Efford by local residents

Long-standing plans to develop a gypsy and traveller site in the Efford area of Plymouth have been scrapped.

Despite hundreds of objections and residents' protests in 2009, planning permission for the 10-pitch site at Military Road, was agreed in 2011.

However, Plymouth City Council has announced it will now honour a "historic commitment" not to develop the site.

The land will be turned into a wildlife reserve instead.

The charity Friends, Families and Travellers said the council had made a "short-sighted decision" that would increase homelessness in the travelling community.

"It's deeply disappointing," advice and policy manager Emma Nuttall told BBC News.

"Homelessness in the travelling community is 25% higher than the fixed community.

"It's a desperate situation because those without somewhere permanent to go face an endless cycle of eviction.

"It's also quite a short-sighted decision because a permanent site would generate income with rent and the like."

However, Phil Brown, chairman of a local residents' group that opposed the plans, was delighted the plans have finally been abandoned.

'Over the moon'

"It's brilliant news. It's such a great natural area with lots of wildlife, including bats," he said.

"I've had so many phone calls from neighbours and committee members and we're over the moon.

"Our main concern - and we had a 1,000 signatures on our petition - was about the traffic, access to the site and the fact it just wasn't suitable."

The council said a tendering process had failed to find a suitable bidder to develop the gypsy and traveller site.

But it said the £516,000 funding earmarked for the Efford site from the government's Home and Communities Agency will now be used to improve the city's only official gypsy site at The Ride in Plymstock.

The Labour-controlled council said the search for more suitable permanent sites would continue and plans for a 15-pitch transit site at Broadley Park would go ahead.

Councillor Chris Penberthy said when the previous site at Efford closed more than 40 years ago, the authority agreed the land would not be used as a permanent gypsy and traveller site again.

Image caption The council said funding had been secured to enhance the area

He said the plans brought forward by the previous [Conservative] administration for the Efford site were "not affordable, even with substantial public subsidy".

"This administration is prepared to honour that original commitment... and will not enter into long-term financially unviable developments," he said.

Funding has been secured to enhance and protect the land at Efford for wildlife, councillor Brian Vincent, cabinet member for the environment, said.

"We still have significant need for gypsy and traveller sites in Plymouth and finding suitable locations is essential," he said.

"This will be an important part of the development of the Plymouth plan and any detailed proposals will be the subject to thorough consultation."

The council has previously said it spends more than £300,000 a year cleaning up unauthorised encampments.

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