Plans for new traveller site in Meldreth announced

Plans to buy and reopen a former traveller site near Meldreth were announced on Wednesday (October 31) to meet the future needs of growing families currently living in South Cambridgeshire.

South Cambridgeshire District Council bosses confirmed in June that independent research had established that 20 extra pitches would be needed in the district up until 2031 to meet South Cambridgeshire District Council’s (SCDC) legal responsibility to provide sufficient housing for travellers.

In a report – that will be presented to the SCDC cabinet this week – financial approval is being sought to use £500,000 of funding already secured from central government to build the site.

Enforcement officers from public bodies covering the area currently deal with almost one case every week where travellers set up illegally on private land or by the roadside, and the proposed site will help alleviate some of the problem.

SCDC bosses have contacted local parish councils, district and county councillors to inform them of proposals to reopen the Mettle Hill site, and have said they are keen to work with the local community to deliver the best site possible for travellers and everyone living nearby.

SCDC officers have also contacted the travelling showpeople who have a site opposite to the proposed site at Mettle Hill to explain plans and invite them to be part of how to design a site that is best for everyone.

The report also seeks approval to purchase two existing traveller sites in the district at Whaddon and Blackwell – a site off the A14 near Milton.

Both sites are currently owned by Cambridgeshire County Council but managed on their behalf by SCDC.

If purchases are agreed, SCDC will also bid for further government funding from the Homes and Communities Agency to improve the site at Whaddon.

This funding would also be used to add two further pitches through better use of the land.

Travellers living on Council run sites – which Mettle Hill would be – are charged rent that covers the cost of a site manager as well as maintaining facilities to a high standard.

Government funding to develop Mettle Hill was secured in a joint bid with Cambridge City Council and at least one of the 8-10 pitches at the proposed site would be offered to them to meet their identified need.

Cllr Mark Howell, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Residents are quite rightly concerned when any type of development is proposed in their area, but Mettle Hill has been used as a travellers site in the past and we believe it is the best option to meet our legal obligations to provide sufficient accommodation for travellers currently living in the district. We have only just published our intentions to reopen the site, but already we have begun the discussions with local communities about how to ensure it is of the highest quality, and delivered in the best way for everyone living nearby. I can reassure all nearby residents that if the site does get financial approval we will want to work closely with them every step of the way.

“It is important to also remember that residents are frequently frustrated when travellers pitch up illegally on land around the district, and the reopening of this site could help alleviate some of this problem.”

If plans are agreed by Cabinet next week, a paper will then be presented to a meeting of Full Council on Thursday 22 November so all councillors can vote on whether to purchase all the sites.

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (November 8) Echo.