THE district council is set to embark on a High Court challenge against the Government to dispute the number of pitches it is expected to provide to home gipsies and travellers over the next 12 years.

St Albans already gives up 52 pitches of land to serve the community and the council says this figure is far more than other areas provide within Hertfordshire.

The Government is asking the council to find space in the district for another 28 pitches between 2006 and 2011, and another estimated 24 between 2011 and 2021 – a total of 104.

Councillor Chris Brazier, portfolio holder for planning and conservation, said: “The council has already done the right thing by making provision for pitches for the use of the gipsy and traveller community in the district at a level which is considerably higher than many other districts in the county.

“The proposed increase would, given the environmental constraints that the district faces, threaten our Green Belt and result in an extra burden being placed on our already overstretched schools and other services.”

He added: “We have therefore issued legal action against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government challenging the number of additional pitches that the district is being asked to provide.”

Although the council appreciates there is a need for pitches across the East of England, Councillor Brazier says they are not convinced there has been a robust assessment of what the need actually is.

Legal proceedings were issued by St Albans District Council at the High Court on Thursday, August 27, against the Secretary of State, in a bid to quash the increase in the number of pitches it needs to provide on the grounds it is disproportionately high.

The district council is challenging figures contained in the East of England Regional Assembly's policy on Accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople in the East of England – a document that forms part of the Regional Spatial Strategy for the East of England.