Council extend plans for temporary Leeds traveller site

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Controversial plans for a temporary travellers’ site in south Leeds have been backed by councillors - but for THREE years rather the 12 months originally suggested.

Despite objections from nearby Crown Point Retail Park and a motorcycle school, councillors are supporting the project on Kidacre Street saying it will help break the costly cycle of encampment and eviction for travellers.

Councillors on the city plans panel this week passed an amendment to defer the decision to officers and lengthen the approval from 12 months to three years, subject to suitable facilities being in place on site.

They say the site offers an interim solution for the city - which needs to provide 62 traveller pitches on orders of the Government - while other permanent sites are sought and they await a decision from the Secretary of State on plans expand the current Cottingley Springs Travellers site.

The move also comes after controversial proposals for a new 55-pitch traveller site in Morley were thrown out by city bosses in early October.

Coun Peter Gruen, executive board member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel said: “I am keen to meet concerns raised by local communities, as well as trying to provide suitable places for Travellers to stay and reducing costs for arranging alternative pitches and evictions.

“I recognise we aren’t going to be able to come up with a perfect solution everyone is happy with, but this can provide a stable housing option for seven families for up to three years.

“Kidacre Street is close to amenities for Travellers to use, and provides an alternative to unlawful encampments elsewhere in the city.”

Objections from a representative for Crown Point Retail Park included a perceived increase risk of crime and the impact on business as well as locating a residential site near to high pressure gas pipelines.

Leeds School of Motorcycling cited previous anti-social behaviour, dogs running loose, horses roaming on the main road and criminal damage.

The council report suggested fears could be managed by regular patrols by police, environmental action officers, dog wardens and street cleaning teams.

Helen Jones, chief executive officer from the traveller welfare group Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE) said council rules, which residents sign up to, have “significantly reduced community tensions and unnecessary expenditure caused by unmanaged encampment.”

She added: “The council is to be applauded for its pragmatic, solution focused approach which leads to better outcomes and wellbeing for all its communities including gypsies and travellers.”

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