Calls by Epping Forest District Council for the controversial Government Gypsy and Traveller Direction to be lifted have been heeded. Councillors are celebrating after the new Coalition Minister Greg Clark MP confirmed the revocation of the Direction in response to the calls by District Council Leader Di Collins.
In his reply to Councillor Collins, Greg Clark says: Despite the difficulties placed on your authority you have shown that the council has taken a responsible approach to meeting the accommodation requirements of travellers in the district. I do not hesitate, therefore, in agreeing to your request to withdraw the direction.
Councillor Collins wrote repeatedly to minsters in the previous and current governments, calling for the lifting of the direction. She said: This is fantastic news. I am absolutely delighted. The Direction has been a millstone around our necks for three years. It has been especially difficult for many of our residents and placed a tremendous strain on the council. It was not even supported by our local gypsy and traveller communities. After working so hard, it will be an immense relief to all of us that the new minister has acted so speedily.
Epping Forest District Council was one of a small number of councils placed under Government directions to provide disproportionately high numbers of new gypsy and traveller pitches compared to other councils. Having been successful in having the original number of pitches reduced from 49 to 34, the council was still required to carry out a public consultation process separately from its normal planning procedures.
The process diverted council funds and resources away from other matters. Many residents lived under a cloud of anxiety and uncertainty while the council tried to convince the previous government not to force through the direction. However, within a few days of the new Coalition Government taking office, regional planning targets were scrapped and councillors began to hope the new ministerial team at the Department of Communities and Local Government was listening.
Confirmation that the new Government had lifted the direction was received in a letter to Councillor Collins signed on 6 July 2010.
Councillor Collins added: Now it is over I would like to thank the council`s staff, my fellow councillors, our local MPs including Eric Pickles who has become Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government, and most importantly the thousands of local residents who fought tirelessly for the right outcome. It has been a long struggle and finally a triumph for local democracy over big government. Residents and councillors alike will be celebrating.
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