- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News, Press Releases
“I asked the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government to “call-in” the application for a Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Transit Site at Narrow Lane before Walsall Council’s Planning Committee approved it at their meeting on Thursday 15 July 2021. This application will seriously undermine the Government’s national policy commitments, as well as being in breach of the specific national planning guidance ‘Planning Policy for Travellers’ Sites’ (DCLG). The issue of traveller transit sites and unauthorised encampments is of national and regional interest and is the subject of current debate and proposed legislation in parliament and cannot be dismissed as of local interest only.
At least 2,000 people who live and work in the area of Pleck signed a petition objecting to this application. 97% of those who contacted Walsall Council about this application objected to it. Local residents are overwhelmingly opposed to this application. They have been completely ignored.
The Report submitted by Walsall Council in support of this application is full of concerning omissions and shortcomings.
Poor and harmful air quality around the proposed site has been ignored by
Walsall Council. No air quality assessment or mitigation strategy has been provided to support this application, in breach of local and national policies on air quality. Walsall Council have shown a complete disregard for the health and wellbeing of children and families from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community.
Other alarming aspects of the report concern drainage and refuse collection at the site. The Report concedes that Walsall Council’s proposals have failed to provide suitable proposals for the disposal of foul and surface water flows and refuse collection at the Site.
Severn Trent Water have requested that Walsall Council contact them “at the earliest opportunity” to discuss the implications of foul and surface water flows from the Site. There was no evidence at the meeting that the Council had contacted Severn Trent.
Disturbingly, the Report said that members of the GRT community will be “escorted to the site by police enforcement to minimise disruption.” This is an unsustainable way to manage a Site housing children and families in a built-up residential area.
Members of the Planning Committee compared the Transit Site to a housing development, revealing a total ignorance of the proposals they were voting to approve. Housing developments are controlled by strict building regulations which aim to protect occupants from environmental harm. The Committee showed no understanding that children and families will be living in caravans and vehicles with no such protections and did not question why the Director of Public Health nor the Director of Children’s Services had not submitted any comments on the suitability of the site for this purpose.
I held an Adjournment Debate regarding this application on 26 May 2021, where I raised serious concerns with the decision-making process at Walsall Council and called on the Minister of State for Housing to carry out an investigation. No investigation into the decision-making process at Walsall Council was undertaken by the MHCLG despite the serious concerns I raised on the floor of the House.
Local residents and the GRT community have been let down. Walsall Council have both failed to listen to residents or abide by the principles of openness, transparency and good-administration – it is now up to the Secretary of State to uphold these principles by calling-in this application.”