Posted: Tue 5th May 2020

Wrexham Council set to reassess more than 400 potential Gypsy and Traveller sites as part of crucial planning blueprint

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

A local authority is set to reassess more than 400 potential Gypsy and Traveller sites.

It follows criticism of the three locations chosen within Wrexham Council’s Local Development Plan (LDP).

Two inspectors appointed to oversee the crucial housing blueprint identified what they described as a “serious failing” in the process to pick sites in Llay, Brymbo and Hanmer, which have attracted strong public opposition.

While planning officers defended the council’s position at a hearing held earlier this year, Sian Worden and Melissa Hall said they remained “unconvinced” about the way they were selected.

The authority has now set out the way in which it plans to reconsider the 419 plots originally put forward.

In a letter to the inspectors, chief planning officer Lawrence Isted said: “Thank you for your continued commitment to helping the council address your concerns about the Gypsy and Traveller site selection process to enable the adoption of a sound LDP.

“For its part, despite the exceptional current national circumstances, the council regards the adoption of the plan as a very high priority.

“Having carefully considered your letter, the council suggests that it takes the following course of action, which largely accords with your own suggestions.

“We will carry out a health check of all the Gypsy and Traveller database entries to provide confidence that the information on which the site assessment is based is accurate and that the sites pass or fail at the correct stage of the process. We will ensure that the entries are consistent and robust.

“We will re-run the assessment as set out using the ‘health-checked’ data, but with changes to the process.”

The inspectors highlighted a number of errors and inconsistencies in the evidence previously submitted.

They included the Hanmer site being recorded as within 100 metres of a bus stop when the nearest one is more than 1.5km away, while the council failed to show that the Llay site lies within Alyn Waters Country Park.

They also questioned why the authority did not consider expanding an existing site on Ruthin Road instead.

However, that suggestion was rejected by Mr Isted due to the land required to extend it being under private ownership.

Apart from a small number of amendments, the inspectors said they largely agreed with the council’s suggested approach.

In a joint response , Ms Worden and Ms Hall also accepted it could take more than two months to finish the work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They said: “We fully acknowledge the need to provide resources to essential functions of the authority at this time whilst still recognising your commitment to prioritising the adoption of the LDP.

“Given our suggested changes, and as stated above, we anticipate that a longer time period than two months would be needed to complete the additional work.

“Please would you provide an indication of the likely timescale in the context of the above, albeit we understand that it may well be subject to change in light of current circumstances.

“We are nonetheless appreciative of your intention to provide regular updates of progress in any event.”

It was initially expected that the LDP would be adopted towards the end of 2019.

But with a number of outstanding issues still to address, it looks likely that formal approval will be delayed further into this year.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter

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