Sunday, December 16, 2007

John Baron MP: Traveller plan from Regional Assembly is unfair

Unelected quango says number of local sites should increase by 70%

John Baron MP today criticised proposals from the unelected East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) to increase the number of authorised traveller sites in Basildon from 116 to 197 (a 70% increase) while still leaving some areas in Essex with as few as 15 sites. The plans were agreed this week by the Regional Planning Panel and will be considered by ERRA on 25th January 2008.

John said:

These proposals are completely unfair and discriminate against Basildon District. The unelected members of this regional assembly should come and talk with local residents and gauge for themselves just how angry people are. Basildon has done more than most to provide sites, and so it is absurd that we should now be expected to provide even more.

These proposals would drive a coach and horses through our Greenbelt, as they equate need with unauthorised pitches and therefore reward travellers for illegally developing our Greenbelt land. But these illegal pitches reflect demand – a desire to be close to existing sites – not genuine need.

Instead, the Regional Assembly should be taking a genuinely regional view by obliging all those councils which have done far less to step up to the plate and now share this responsibility.

I would add that I sit on EERA for Basildon and that John's criticisms are entirely justified. If the Assembly was composed of elected members from the various Councils in the East of England then that would be one thing, but it is packed out with appointees from all sorts of unaccountable bodies who can easily push through anything they like. The Assembly has no proper rules of debate and it doesn't even record individual votes, so this could be voted through on a show of hands by people who don't face election and who can later claim 'it wasn't me guv'. Even the Labour government has realised that the Regional Assemblies are going nowhere and they likely face abolition; good riddance. In any case, if this plan goes through then Basildon Council at least will set the process in motion for a judicial review and then the whole stumbling, incompetent mess of the Traveller Review will be replayed out in the High Court. Or maybe EERA will have an attack of sanity and realise that its abject failure to represent the people of the Eastern Region's views on this issue among many others is the main reason that the Assembly is on the way out.

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