John Baron today called on local residents to submit their views to the Government Office in the East of England (GO-East) on recent proposals from the unelected East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) for a new gypsy and traveller strategy. The plans announced last month would see a further 81 authorised pitches imposed on Basildon District, in addition to the 116 pitches already provided. They would leave some neighbouring authorities with as few as 15. GO-East is now undertaking a 12-week consultation on behalf of the Secretary of State, from 25 February to 16 May.
I am urging local residents to take part in the latest consultation on the future of traveller site provision across Essex, as this issue is an important test case for local democracy.
Plans to force new traveller sites on Basildon District are unfair and need to be stopped. They implicitly reward travellers for developing land without planning permission because the target of 81 new authorised sites is calculated to reflect the number of existing unauthorised sites. This is quite wrong.
Basildon has already done its fair share of providing traveller pitches – over 100, while some neighbouring authorities have none at all. That is why it is so important that local residents take this opportunity to have their say. It is time for other local authorities to step up to the plate and help address traveller needs.