A DECISION to take the next step in a search for new Gypsy Traveller sites in Monmouthshire will now be taken by the full council. 

The authority’s Labour-led cabinet had agreed at the start of October to open a public consultation on three sites it has identified as potentially suitable for 10 or 11 pitches to meet the needs of local Gypsy Traveller families. 

But that decision was “called in” allowing a cross party committee, which could have accepted the cabinet’s original decision, to rule the decision should be taken by the full council, which will meet this Thursday, October 26. 

Seven members of the public addressed the committee at County Hall in Usk and Phil Harry, who lives next to Oak Grove Farm – one of two sites in Crick only identified by the council at the end of September – said he hadn’t been aware the field was under consideration until last week. 

He said he was “shocked” an open field in the countryside could be considered and told councillors: “I tried to get an extension on my property it was refused and the advice was due to the impact of the dwelling on a rural landscape I think a Travellers camp would certainly have an impact on the rural landscape.” 

South Wales Argus: The entrance to the Oak Grove Farm site.The entrance to the Oak Grove Farm site. (Image: Monmouthshire County Council)

His neighbour Steve Rich backed comments made about the safety of the B4245 road the field is adjacent to, which Mr Harry said has no footpath or street lighting, and concerns about the speed of passing traffic and said: “I think it’s a very dangerous place to site it.” 

Rob Ollerton, who told councillors he has a degree in town and country planning, questioned why Langley Close site, a field behind homes in Magor, that was among the first five sites considered in July was remained on the table when all the others had been dropped

He said there were a number of similarities between it and the Dancing Hill site in Undy that was dropped at the end of September. He said: “That decision was inconsistent.” 

Aisling Warren, who described herself as a resident of Magor with Undy, questioned if the Langley Close site which is next to the M4 met Welsh Government guidance on the location of Gypsy Traveller sites due to noise and air pollution.  

“The guidance states if a site is considered inappropriate for conventional housing it should also be considered inappropriate for a Gypsy Traveller site,” Ms Warren told the committee. 

South Wales Argus: Views showing the field proposed for development behind Langley Close and the existing housing.Views showing the field proposed for development behind Langley Close and the existing housing. (Image: LDRS)

The field is also divided by a 130 metre long ancient hedgerow which Ms Warren said is protected under regulations. 

Magor West independent councillor Frances Taylor told the committee: “I feel I had no real choice but to call in the decision and you’ve heard residents speak very eloquently about their concerns around the process.” 

Residents had highlighted “flaws” said Cllr Taylor such as the council’s original claim that Langley Close was 150m from the M4 with residents stating it is actually only 40m. She asked if the council had followed “a robust process why have four of five original sites already been ruled out?” 

There was also discussion among councillors at the potential cost of developing the sites and when investigations, including into potential land contamination, would be carried out. 

Nick Keys, from the council’s landlord services, said site surveys could cost £14,000 each but work hadn’t started due to the call in process but it was confirmed survey would be carried out if the public consultation starts. 

The committee was also told by cabinet member Paul Griffiths, and officers, the Oak Grove and Bradbury Farm plots in Crick had been subject to assessment as they are in the Caldicot East preferred site for housing in the proposed replacement local development plan. Developing the area would see infrastructure such as street lights, and possibly a primary school, added.

South Wales Argus: Bradbury Farm in Crick.Bradbury Farm in Crick. (Image: Monmouthshire County Council.)

Cllr Griffiths said the cabinet decision in October was only to start the consultation process so people could have their say on including the sites in the development plan, which will itself be subject to further consultation before it is submitted to the Welsh Government next year. 

The Chepstow councillor said: “The decision was not to approve any of these sites but to commence a public consultation that would take place over six weeks and be arranged by an independent organisation and provide every opportunity for all residents in those communities to feed in responses to these proposals.” 

The committee, which also held part of its discussion in a confidential session due to personal or financial considerations, agreed the decision should be referred to the full council due to financial decisions it thought the full council should consider.