Dorset councils merger delays Gypsy sites plan

Travellers in Poole
Image caption The first stage of consultation on possible Gypsy and traveller sites in Dorset was held in 2011

Plans for new Gypsy and traveller pitches in Dorset are being delayed by an upcoming merger of the county's councils.

A list of potential sites had been due to be published in June, followed by a public consultation.

It was then thought it would happen this month but this has now been put back until January with the possibility of further delays, planners have said.

The county's nine councils are due to merge in April.

Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch will form a unity authority, with a second formed from Dorset County, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, Weymouth & Portland and West Dorset councils.

Simon Trueick, planning policy manager for Dorset's councils, said work was continuing on a draft Gypsy and traveller site plan.

Image caption Dorset's nine councils will become two unitary authorities in April 2019

However, he said there had been delays due to difficulties with some authorities identifying sufficient sites, but he did not specify which ones.

"Coupled with that is the fact that as we get ever nearer to local government review the document itself will need [to be] restructured to reflect the new council areas," he added.

He said the authorities were "looking tentatively" at a possible consultation in January.

The first stage of consultation on possible sites across the county was held in 2011.

The following year the government agreed there was a national need for about 6,000 new pitches.

But a BBC Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2016 found local authorities had created just 1,800 since that time.

It also found there were a total of 212 pitches in Dorset, with 25 created since 2012.

The county's councils had also calculated 132 more were needed.

In 2015, about 80% of respondents to a Gypsy and traveller site consultation in Dorset raised objections, including flooding.

A recent FOI to Dorset's councils found they spent £700,000 on removal and clean-up costs associated with 183 evictions of unauthorised encampments in the county between 2013 and 2017.

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