Wokingham Borough Council recently met with residents of Twyford Orchards to discuss proposals to expand and refurbish the existing Traveller site on London Road, Twyford.
Twyford Orchards, owned and managed by the borough council, currently consists of 16 constructed pitches. However the site is overcrowded. The overcrowding has largely been a result of the expansion of the existing residents’ families, and the change to larger mobile homes from touring caravans around which the site was originally planned.
Wokingham Borough Council must comply with legislation and guidance around site facilities and standards. The expansion of the site is an opportunity to bring Twyford Orchards up to a decent standard and increase pitch numbers to alleviate the overcrowding. The increase in the pitch numbers will meet the housing needs of those currently living on the site. There is no plan to being new Travellers onto the site.
Wokingham Borough Council has taken legal action against anyone who has pulled onto the site for the last 18 months. Last year, the borough council took proceedings in the county court to remove one family. This took a number of months and significant resources but shows the council is firm in its intention not to allow an increase in overcrowding and to manage its sites effectively.
Twyford Orchards has been a Traveller site for over 30 years. It is a settled site with very little turnover. The residents of Twyford Orchards consider themselves part of the local community. Site resident David Stevens said: "This is a chance to sort out the overcrowding on the site. The council has said that no one will be brought onto site. Me and my family will get a pitch near to my extended family."
Cllr Keith Baker, executive member for Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) liaison, said: "We have been aware for a while of overcrowding at Twyford Orchards and we need to address this to improve the residents’ living conditions. By expanding the site, it will alleviate overcrowding by providing better spacing of pitches. We will not be allowing more families to move onto the site and we have made it clear we will take enforcement action should this happen.
"The meeting on February 23 was our first opportunity to show the residents our proposals and they were well received but obviously there are lots of questions that we don’t yet have the answers to. We will be working closely with all site residents so their views can be taken into account in the changes.
"In partnership with Housing Solutions, we were recently awarded £575,000 by the Homes and Communities Agency, which will be used to expand and refurbish the site, should we get planning approval."
In order for the site to be expanded, the borough council is looking to acquire approximately 0.65 hectares of adjoining land. Negotiations are currently ongoing with the landowner.
The next steps will see the borough council, in partnership with Housing Solutions, develop the proposals further. It is hoped a planning application will be submitted early this summer and local residents and interested parties will have the chance to comment during the formal public consultation period.