AN MP claims the latest proposal to ensure new sites for travellers’ sites are created in York would ‘hold developers to ransom’.

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy also claims the city’s estimated shortfall of 59 travellers’ pitches is vastly overinflated – partly because it includes travellers currently in bricks and mortar housing who want to live in caravans instead.

The Tory MP spoke out after The Press revealed on Thursday that huge housing schemes proposed under the Local Plan at locations such as Clifton Moor and Osbaldwick could be blocked unless developers agreed to include travellers’ sites in their plans.

Consultants have suggested the idea to City of York Council after warning that the plan could be delayed by a planning inspector unless new sites are identified to meet the shortfall. Developers could either use part of sites designated for permanent housing to accommodate travellers as well, or provide a site elsewhere or give the council a ‘commuted’ sum to pay for facilities elsewhere. Mr Sturdy said: “I was somewhat shocked to learn of the plans to hold developers to ransom to ensure the mythical need for traveller pitches is met.”

He believed the assessment of the overall accommodation needs of the travelling communitywas massively over-inflated, saying: “Many of my constituents and I still fear that the council is trying to accommodate travellers from neighbouring local authorities and this is not at all what a local plan is for.” “Had the council consulted on the needs assessment methodology, they would have realised that the vast majority of residents do not believe it is right that travellers living in bricks and mortar housing should be taken into account.”

Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Tracey Simpson-Laing said a Conservative-led Government was stating the need for local plans to satisfy the need for traveller pitches while a Conservative MP was saying adherence to the law in this regard was wrong.

She said the traveller need assessment was based on current and projected need, including provision for existing children who would have housing needs when they get older.

“Without adequate provision, the planning inspector will find the local plan unsound, leading to a failure in legally defining York’sthe greenbelt for the first time,” she said. “One way or another we have a legal duty to satisfy this demand and the pitches need to go somewhere.”