In November 2018, I submitted an objection to a proposal by Denbighshire County Council to develop a Gypsy and Traveller Site in St Asaph. This proposal arose from a report prepared by the local authority, as per Welsh Government requirements, which suggested that there was a need for a permanent residential and transit site in the county. The land at Greengates Farm, to the east of St Asaph, was the local authority’s preferred option, out of a list of 40 sites.
Residents and local community groups were, rightly, concerned about the impact of losing agricultural land and the establishment of a permanent facility near housing and the St Asaph Business Park. I was particularly impressed by the advocacy of ‘Business and Residents Against Inappropriate Development St Asaph’ led by Leanne Groves.
Public meetings, a petition, and objections within the formal planning processes, like mine, demonstrated the strength of feeling against this proposal. I specifically pointed to the need for a UK-wide approach to the issue of gypsy and traveller sites, versus the unilateral action of the Welsh Government and local authority. The Welsh Government’s policies place far greater demands on local authorities than is the case in England. There was no evidence of any demand by the travelling community for a transit site at this location. This proposal would have cost over £1.6 million of taxpayers’ money, when there was and remains significant unmet need for local housing.
After lengthy consultation, the local authority eventually abandoned their transit proposal at the pre-planning stage. The local authority proceeded with the planning application for the residential site at this location which was refused by county councillors.
The local authority has since carried out a further assessment and concluded that there is no evidence of need for a transit site and recommended that a management-based approach should be developed based on best practice from across the UK. This was always clear to me, and I believe the earlier plans were the result of inappropriate interpretation of over-zealous Welsh legislation.
In August 2022, in response to an enquiry I made on behalf of a constituent, I received the following assurance from a Senior Planning Officer at Denbighshire County Council: “There are currently no plans for a traveller transit site in Denbighshire being progressed. The latest Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment was approved by the Council in December 2022 and is currently awaiting approval from Welsh Government. This latest assessment recommends that formal transit provision is not provided and that other ways of meeting the transit accommodation needs for Gypsy and Traveller households be considered.”
I will continue to monitor the development of this managed approach and await any further plans relating to a residential site.
If you discover the establishment of any illegal encampment, please report it by telephoning 01824 706000.
I have made successful requests of the local authority for height-restricting barriers and gates to be installed at car parks across the constituency. If there are any car parks or other open areas that you are concerned about, please bring them to my attention.