Plans for the major redevelopment of a Barnstaple waterfront site may be held up unless the council can find a new site for gypsies and travellers, a meeting is to be told.
Up to 245 new homes are set to be built on North Devon Council owned site at Seven Brethren, while the existing North Devon Leisure Centre is set to be demolished and replaced with a new swimming pool, sports hall and exercise studios next to the Tarka Tennis Centre.
The council has been awarded £2.2m from the Land Release Fund to assist in unlocking sites and accelerating the delivery of housing, but the land has to be released for housing by March 2020.
However, the site allocated for housing currently contains the only ‘toleration site’ for gypsies and travellers in the district, and planning permission will not be obtained for the redevelopment if an alternative site for the travellers cannot be provided, a report to the council’s executive states.
When they meet on April 1, members are recommended to relocate the ‘toleration site’ to a proposed new long stay car park to the rear of the Seven Brethren site on a temporary basis, until the end of December 2020.
And they are asked to buy or find an alternative transit site for the long term provision of gypsy and travellers to meet the council’s legal obligations, and report back to the committee on how the site will be managed.
The aim is to have that new site available for use by December 2020. But as a recent call for sites associated with the Local Plan process produced nothing suitable, the report says.
It stated: “If an alternative site is not found and the toleration site has to remain where it is then the Land Release Fund cannot be drawn down.”
The report though adds there are risks associated with relocating the gypsy and traveller site to the proposed location.
It said: “The site is remote and away from natural surveillance and could lead to increased anti – social behaviour. The existing site on Seven Brethren is already problematic and there is cost/officer time involved in terms of clean up and court action.”
It concludes: “The executive should therefore understand that if the recommendations are approved, the council would need to commit to looking for and finding a permanent solution. If it does not do so, the integrity and viability of the wider regeneration scheme is likely to be affected.”