New traveller site pitches win government funding

ELEVEN new pitches will be created in Northumberland to increase official traveller sites.

Funding of £311,000 has been provided through the Homes and Communities Agency for the project as part of a national drive to increase the number of authorised pitches.

No specific location has yet been agreed for the additional Northumberland facilities, but they will be provided in the south east of the county.

Northumberland County Council Interim Head of Housing Services Kevin Lowry said: “This funding will help the council to discharge its statutory duty to meet the needs of homeless people, including the travelling community.

“No location has been agreed yet for the new pitches and we will be working with local parish councils and other stakeholders to identify a suitable transit site in south east Northumberland for gypsies and travellers.”

The Government has said that the extra funding for traveller pitches will go hand-in-hand with action against unauthorised sites.

Through the Localism Act, councils will be given stronger powers to tackle abuse of retrospective planning permission and help them deal with any form of unauthorised development.

It is hoped that the provision of more authorised facilities will reduce the number of unauthorised sites, which can create tension between travellers and the settled community.

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell, who announced the successful bids for funding, said: “This funding will help provide sites in a way that reflects local need in consultation with the local community.

“It will assist hundreds of traveller families find sites where they want to live and foster better relations with the existing communities and councils.”

He added: “New authorised sites, with the support of local communities, will be treated on an equal footing as new bricks and mortar homes, with councils getting powerful financial benefits for building authorised sites where they are needed.”

Across the North East more than £6million has been allocated to create 47 new pitches, including the Northumberland allocation, and improve 72 existing ones.