First look at Britain’s most expensive legal traveller’s site – a £1.7million facility on green belt in Bath which has sound proof walls to keep the noise out.
These are the first pictures inside Britain’s most expensive legal travellers’ site which cost a staggering £1.6 MILLION – to permanently house just EIGHT families.
The site is built on greenbelt land at a cost of £123,000 per pitch and is surrounded by soundproof fencing to keep out the noise of a nearby road.
It has just eight ‘permanent’ plots with a further five ‘transit’ pitches for travellers who are passing through.
Each long-term pitch comes with a £25,000 ‘amenity unit’ – a small building with a living room and sanitary facilities – a patio area, and parking for two caravans and two cars.
Because the site is in the green belt, the units are clad in wood and have grass-topped roofs so that they do not spoil the landscape.
But some local residents in Bath, Somerset, have likened it to a “holiday camp” and are furious that the council has lavished so much on the project during austerity cuts.
Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) is making an estimated £30million of cuts over a three-year period, with the final £9m still to come in 2015/16.
Meanwhile the waiting list for much-needed social housing has swelled to 5,000 households.
Tim Warren, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, reckons the final cost of the site will be nearer £2million.
He said: “It’s absolutely beautiful, however, is this the best use of taxpayers’ money?
“We are making cuts in children’s centres, etc, but spending this much on one site.
“I’m also not convinced this is the final figure. When we first had meetings around this, costs were estimated at over £2 million.
“The council had £1.8 million set aside for the project and then central government provided £750,000.
“What the final figures are we don’t know. I will be asking the question as to whether that included legal fees, clean up and road works.
“To me, with the amount of housing we need, it wasn’t the right decision.
“Everyone agrees we need a traveller site, but is this the right use of taxpayers’ money?”
The new facility, called Carrswood View, is built on the site of an unauthorised travellers’ camp in Twerton, Bath, which had become a run-down mess.
Costing £1.62 million, it was built by Elim Housing using £870,000 of council money and £750,000 of funding from central government.
Each permanent pitch is fenced in with a lockable gate and the amenity units have a bathroom and an open-plan kitchen/living area with two sinks and space for white goods.
Sound-proof fencing will be erected on three sides of the site to cut down noise from the nearby road and railway so that the travellers are not disturbed during the night.
Residents will pay £105 a week in rent and will be subject to the lowest Band A council tax of £963.40 a year.
Eleven applicants are currently waiting to learn whether they can move to the site next month, but will have to sign a tenancy agreement.
Elim will use the estimated rental income of about £55,000 a year to manage the site, whereas the council will receive the tax revenue and a new housing bonus per unit.
Local Twerton councillor Tim Ball, Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning on BANES council, defended the expenditure.
“Every single person has a right to a home, has a right to somewhere to live, no matter what,” he said.
“I am delighted that after many years of trying, this Council has finally been able, and with the help of Government funding, to provide a permanent Gypsy and Traveller site.
“This will have a huge impact on the health and welfare of the residents and importantly have many other wider benefits for the Council and the community.”
Council leader Paul Crossley add that the site had improved the council’s ability to evict future illegal encampments in the district.
But Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will rightly wonder whether the huge outlay represents value for money.
“The choice of a Green Belt location means that the cost has gone up unnecessarily, and the Council needs to explain why this was the site chosen.
“It’s important Councils strike the balance between meeting legal obligations and providing safe shelter with an obligation to hard-pressed local taxpayers not to over-spend.”
Residents in the area have also questioned the huge cost when the council is slashing local services.
In 2013 BANES announced it would cut its children’s service by £2.3 million – or 40 per cent – in two years, although this has now dropped to £1.8 million.
Retired company director Allan Perrin, 64, has lived in the area for 25 years, said: “They have spent a lot of money on it. I hope the people there look after it.
“It is a vast improvement from what was there before but the question is could it have been done cheaper? It’s a time of austerity after all.”
Michael Parr, 69, a retired engineer, added: “We were astonished when we first read how much it cost.
“It’s a lot of money to lavish on people who travel around.
“It’s like a holiday camp. There are a lot of people who will be living with less amenities.
“Its cost is certainly an issue. It’s an issue in the up-coming election about getting people on the housing ladder, especially the lower end. ”
Angry comments have also appeared online.
Web user ‘Teabag_Terry2’ wrote on the Bath Chronicle website: “And there’s me, saving money that I have earned all my life to buy a tiny terraced house. What a complete mug.”
Mil8l3i5e9 added: “If I buy my daughter a caravan can she have one of these pitches as she can’t afford to rent let alone buy a house in Bath.”