£1m of taxpayers money spend to create a new age travellers camp

New Age travellers camp to be built with £1 million public money

By Richard Gray and Agencies
9:00PM BST 09 Apr 2013

The site at Haldon Hill, near Exeter, Devon, has been used illegally by travellers for 12 years, but is now to be revamped using £1.11 million of taxpayer’s money.

The proposal will replace the existing ramshackle camp with 15 official plots for “new travellers” under plans approved by Teignbridge District Council.

Communal allotments, a children’s play area and composting bins will all be installed at the site as part of the project.

Parking for visitors along with new sanitation will also be installed while the camp will have a permanent site manager.

It has been given approval under a Government initiative announced last year to provide £60 million of funding for new official gypsy and traveller sites.

The new site in Haldon Hill has met with a mixed reaction from the local community, with many welcoming news that the site is to be cleaned up.

Although the site has been illegal since it was first occupied in August 2001, it has been tolerated by the Teignbridge District Council, the local planning authority and Devon County Council, which owns the land.

Councillor Philip Vogel, Teignbridge District Council’s executive spokesman for housing and planning, said: This has not been an easy journey for any of us some difficult decisions have been made along the way but we needed to arrive at a compromise – something that would achieve the best outcome for everyone involved.

“Put simply, the site could not stay as it was. Residents did not have access to suitable sanitation, the encampment was unauthorised and it was having a negative impact on the surrounding environment and the wider Haldon community.

“Like authorities up and down the country, we need to provide sites that are suitable for gypsy and travellers. This site will go some way towards addressing that need.”

The camp currently houses over 25 families, consisting of around 50 people in total, and has no running water, electricity or sanitation. Around a dozen children live on the site.

Locals have expressed concern about pollution and rubbish coming from the site.

The new site, however, was approved by 14-1 votes by Teignbridge District Council and is to be funded with a £1.115 million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency, in an attempt to improve the site.

Those travellers not allocated a pitch at the new, smaller, revamped site will be helped by the council’s housing team to find alternative accommodation, a spokesman said.

It promised to take enforcement action against any travellers who remain on unauthorised land.

Teign Housing, which submitted the plans and will manage the site, said it will be constructed using materials to fit in with its woodland setting.

Mike Hanrahan, chief executive of Teign Housing, said: “This site, for new travellers, will be the first of its kind and has a unique opportunity to act as a model for similar opportunities within the district and across the country.”

Last January the Department for Communities and Local Government announced it would be providing £60 million to help build new sites for travellers while also allowing local authorities to approve such sites under its controversial planning reforms.

The Homes and Communities Agency, which is distributing the funding, has identified 750 new and improved pitches around the country.

A spokesman for the Homes and Communities Agency confirmed that it hand funded the project in Haldon Hill as a site to be allocated to New Age travellers as part of the scheme.

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