The York Council has admitted that a report, which it claims justified establishing a 20 pitch “Showman’s Yard” on land located between Knapton and Wetherby Road, is 4 years old.
It appears here in a list of relevant documents available on the internet.
Essentially the report, compiled by a consultancy company called “arc4” from Manchester, details the aspirations of the relatively small group of “showpeople” who tour the country providing fairground style entertainment.
One of the findings of the report relates to the number of “Yards” required to accommodate Showpeople across North Yorkshire. The term ‘Yard’ is used to describe an area that comprises a series of ‘plots’ which accommodate family and extended family units
National policy guidance in respect of Showmen was first set out by the last government within the Communities and Local Government Circular 04/2007: Planning for Travelling Showpeople (21st August 2007).
However this Circular led the present government to consult on new guidelines which give local residents more say in planning policy. The distinction between “Travellers” (the Gypsy community) & “Showpeople” became somewhat blurred.
All local authorities were consulted on the proposals before new guidance was issued.
A copy of the government’s guidance, which was issued in 2012, can be found here
“Travelling showpeople” are defined in the circular as meaning:
“Members of a group organised for the purposes of holding fairs, circuses or shows (whether or not travelling together as such). This includes such persons who on the grounds of their own or their family’s or dependants’ more localised pattern of trading, educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily or permanently, but excludes Gypsies and Travellers”
Crucially the new policy says “Traveller sites (temporary or permanent) in the Green Belt are inappropriate development”
The Government circular is not included in the list of reports that the Council says influenced the York Cabinets proposals.
The Council is now free to set its own “targets” for the number of Yards and plots it will provide over a 5 year planning period.
In 2009, the Council commissioned report, had identified a shortfall of 54 plots across North Yorkshire.
Of these, the showmen themselves had expressed a preference for 23% (13 plots) to be located in the York area. The next most popular areas were Hambleton and Selby.
The report identifies a maximum size for each yard of 12 plots with the Showman’s preference being for Yards with no more than 6 plots.
The Showmen (who are represented by a Guild) said that their top priority was good access to main roads. Access to shops and schools were the next most important considerations.
Of high importance for stop over yards was the “Capacity for light industrial working on-yard to allow for maintenance and repairs between fairs”.
It is clear, therefore, that based on its own survey of need – and current government guidance – the Wetherby Road location for a Showman’s Yard containing 20 plots is unnecessarily large, poorly located for access to public services, likely (because of semi industrial activities) to be a source of nuisance to nearby homes and in conflict with central Government planning guidance on the conservation of the Green Belt.
Irrespective of any decision on the location of a Showman’s’ Yard (or Yards), the Wetherby Road site is now under threat as its “Green Belt” designation has been challenged by the Council.
Allocation by the Council of this site for residential or retail activities would maximise its value for developers.
With the Councils justification for allocating building land for 22,000 additional homes being ridiculed, they have been forced into refusing access to key planning documents.
If this approach continues after the start of the official consultation period then they are likely to face a legal challenge
NB. What is described as a “drop in” exhibition on the Local Plan has been scheduled for Acomb Explore Library on Front Street on Thursday 20th June (2:30pm – 7:00pm). The Council are not staging any public meetings as part of their “consultation” on their planning proposals.