Mid Wales

Brecon gypsy site land compulsorily purchased

A 15-year search for a permanent home for a family of Romany Gypsies in Brecon has taken a major step forward after land was compulsorily purchased.

Powys council intends to spend more than £2m on a new camp and said it could open in April next year.

The family has been living on a temporary site near Brecon since 2008 and before that lived in a lay-by in nearby Libanus.

Permission to compulsory purchase the land was granted by the Welsh assembly.

"The county council has been working hard for some considerable time to try and develop a permanent gypsy site in the Brecon area and the decision is a significant step forward in that work," said Rosemarie Harris, Powys cabinet member for housing and Garry Banks, cabinet member for property.

"We will now be able to start work on the project and provide a facility that meets the needs of the family concerned and complies with Welsh government good practice standards."

They said they had "considerable" financial assistance from the Welsh government but it was likely to take some months to complete and they hoped to have the site completed by spring 2014.

The council said the new gypsy and travellers' site adjacent to Brecon Enterprise Park was expected to cost it £400,000, with a remainder of more than £1.6m coming from Welsh government grants.

The authority had planned to build a permanent travellers' site in Llanfilo, near Brecon, but its own planning committee twice turned down applications for it.

In 2008, the council temporarily placed the gypsy family in nearby Cefn Cantref, but it did so without planning permission from Brecon Beacons National Park and it accused the council of a "flagrant disregard of planning policy".

An application by the council to extend the family's stay at Cefn Cantref until April 2012 was turned down by the national park in 2010, but an appeal against the decision was upheld by the planning inspectorate.

Urgency

In April 2010, the saga cost the council and national park authority £250 each when the public service ombudsman for Wales partially upheld a complaint by a property developer, who owned land adjacent to Cefn Cantref.

Powys council was criticised for moving the family there without planning consent, while the national park authority was criticised for taking eight months to deal with a retrospective planning application for the site.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall urged the council to find the gypsy family a suitable location as a matter of urgency.

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