Ruffley slams EERA over proposals that will see traveller pitch requirements for St Edmundsbury soar by 33 percent

Friday, 15 May, 2009

David Ruffley MP has this week hit out at the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) over proposals that will see the number of additional traveller pitches required in the St Edmundsbury Borough Council area by 2011 increased from 15 to 20.

The Government Office for the East of England (Go-East) is currently consulting on the proposed changes in the region and the deadline for responses is 22 May 2009.

The reasons given by EERA for the pitch increase in St Edmundsbury were as follows:

4.121 The GTAA-based need included an estimate for those displaced after a council site closure in 1999. The district has had relatively low levels of unauthorised camping recently. It is a large district with a high level of unconstrained land. The additional requirement is relatively modest in relation to the scale of housing growth. It contains two settlements with good road access to Cambridge: Bury St Edmunds (itself a Key Centre of Development and Change) and Haverhill. We recommend a small increase to 20 pitches

David said:

'What is most shocking about this 33 percent increase in the pitch requirement from St Edmundsbury is that EERA provide no evidence base for their recommendations.

'In principal, I have little opposition to properly sited traveller pitches when there are no objections by local residents, however, there is no justification for this increase in the requirements for our area.

'Go-East are required to publish reasons for any proposed changes to the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) and this consultation document fails to do so in spectacular style. Indeed, in their recommendations EERA state that St Edmundsbury has had 'relatively low levels of unauthorised camping'- if this is the case why are they recommending a huge increase in the requirements? There is clearly little or no demand for more pitches.

'I am amazed that this consultation document has been allowed to progress to this stage with the complete absence of any established evidence base. However, I would urge all residents in our part of Suffolk to respond to Go-East before 22 May making it quite clear that until proper justification can be given we will not be accepting any increase in the traveller pitch requirements in St Edmundsbury.'