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Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Thursday, 26 August 2010 12:02 UK
Fears over traveller and gypsy sites in Somerset

Travellers and gypsies in Somerset say they may be forced to live on unauthorised sites because there is a shortage of pitches for them.

Boy in a gypsy wagon
Local councils will now decide where and how many sites are needed

The coalition government has scrapped targets set by the previous Labour government to create more pitches and have significantly reduced funding.

Labour had earmarked £150m nationally over five years to pay for new sites as part of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS).

But when the new coalition government came in, the RSS was scrapped and funding for new pitches was reduced to £15.5m.

It means local councils will now decide how many residential pitches for long stay gypsies and transit pitches for those who are travelling through are given the go ahead.

Sally Woodbury, a Romany Gypsy who works for Friends, Families and Travellers, said although councils have a duty to provide sites for travellers, they will now only build what they feel is needed.

She said: "In my experiences of councils, they don't want a gypsy site in their area so if they say 'actually we don't need to provide for any' this ongoing situation will continue.

"Travellers will have to help themselves because no-one is willing to help them."

Here's a breakdown of how many traveller and gypsy sites local councils in Somerset have:

North Somerset was going to have to provide an extra 36 residential pitches on top of the 42 it already has and 10 new transit pitches by 2011.

The council said it had not managed to find land for any of these extra pitches. It did ask landowners if they had any available and although a few people came forward, the land was deemed not suitable.

Mendip had to find 87 pitches - we don't have a figure for how many of those it's managed to find - but we know councillors are meeting next week to talk about the figures now this original target's been scrapped.

South Somerset was told it needed 30 more pitches - they've currently granted planning permission for just seven of these.

Sedgemoor and Taunton Deane Borough Council have both already met the RSS's original targets

West Somerset said historically it had very little demand for pitches - it currently has 12 but these are not full.

Bath and North East Somerset says it is planning 19 more permanent pitches but it did not have figures for the original targets set by the RSS.

Audio slideshow: Gypsy family woe
02 Sep 09 |  People & Places
Gypsy family is facing eviction
11 Aug 09 |  Somerset



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