Labour Councillors were delighted to have ensured a U-turn by the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council after the council approved plans to sell the West Meadows Gypsy and Traveller site to those that live on the site rather than simply to the highest bidder.
Previously Suffolk County Council were just going to put the site up for sale without consulting those that live at West Meadows and without any concrete guarantees that residents would have any say in who bought the site.
Labour County Councillor for Whitehouse and Whitton , Cllr Kathy Bole made a statement to the Cabinet meeting saying; “As one of the county councillors for this area, I am glad to see that the council has taken on board some of the concerns we had about the last paper. I welcome the fact that the families on the plot are now being consulted with regard to the possible sale of the West Meadows site. I am also pleased to see that the families are willing to work together and hope that they are given the time and the resources to get proper legal advice with regard to option 1 of the plan.
“Although this is a vast improvement to the previous report, there are still a number of concerns which need to be addressed and will be covered by my colleagues. I want to stress that there must be acknowledgement of the cultural issues that arise between the groups on the site and the different way things are achieved in the Gypsy and Traveller communities. I am concerned that ALL households are given equal status with regard to any future purchase of the site. I would like to seek assurances that the community is supported by the right agencies to make informed and would hope that where the council is aware of similar arrangements in place that they seek to learn from best practice. I would also like assurances that agreements are put in place in order to safeguard the welfare of the livestock on the site as well.
“Finally, I would only like to add that if option 1 fails that this item be brought back to cabinet and not left to delegated authority.”
Labour Group Leader, Cllr Sandra Gage suggested to Cabinet Member Tony Goldson that if the sale of West Meadows to the resident’s consortium does not go ahead, any plan to offer the site to private buyers should come back to cabinet.
She said; “Given the importance of this site as the only Local Authority owned permanent site in Suffolk, and the need to protect its future use as a gypsy and traveller site, I strongly suggest to Cabinet that it adds a further recommendation bring this back to Cabinet if necessary.
The Labour Group hopes that the resident consortium does secure the purchase of the site, it was deeply disappointed that Cllr Tony Goldson and Tory Leader Colin Noble refused to agree to this further recommendation, which aimed to make sure, that whatever happens, the site remains a gypsy and traveller site.