A COUNCIL in Yorkshire has claimed there is insufficient evidence to take action over allegations of animal abuse on a travellers’ site in the village where Emmerdale was once filmed.
Campaigners have staged a high-profile protest amid claims that dogs and horses are being mistreated on the site at Esholt, close to Bradford.
However, during heated exchanges at a Bradford Council meeting, members of the local authority told residents that while there are concerns over animal welfare, there is not enough evidence to bring prosecutions.
A 13,800-signature petition was handed in to the council by residents living near the travellers site calling for the council to take action against the tenants accused of animal abuse.
But council leader David Green said: “Whilst the standards of living may fall short of those expected by the individuals who are complaining about them, they do not contravene law.”
During the meeting on Tuesday evening, Beverley Wilson, 54, from Rawdon, who has been spearheading the protest, delivered a speech outlining the campaigners’ case.
She said: “We are here today to give a voice to the animals who are suffering extreme abuse at the hands of the gypsies on the Esholt site. We have had to live with this horror on our doorsteps, witnessing shocking acts of cruelty and neglect for many years.
“Our repeated complaints to the appropriate council officers have not resulted in any action being taken. We are in no doubt that the animals are being used for illegal breeding and subsequently providing the gypsy owners with a lucrative source of income.”
The Yorkshire Post reported in January that residents had claimed dogs were being bred without a licence on the council-owned site in “abysmal” conditions, and alleged volunteers have had to feed horses themselves to prevent them starving.
At the time, Bradford Council confirmed it was investigating the alleged dog breeding, while the RSPCA visited and had “no concerns” over the animals that officers had found there. But the animal welfare organisation said it would continue to visit while there were “ongoing issues”.
Esholt was used as a location for filming for the soap opera, which is set in the Yorkshire Dales, between 1976 and 1996.
The soap is now filmed at a purpose-built set based on the layout of Esholt on the Harewood estate near Leeds.
During Tuesday’s meeting, councillors voted to pass the petition on to the RSPCA.
A public question was put forward by Simon Hiles, who asked why no action had been taken against the tenants for keeping more animals on the site than the maximum permitted under council regulations.
But Coun Green maintained that any action to evict travellers had not been supported by the authority’s legal team, and there was not sufficient evidence to “deprive an individual of their tenancy”.
However, following the meeting, campaigners were critical of the council’s response.
Katharine Waddington, 55, from Pateley Bridge, said: “How can they stand in there and not accept responsibility? How can they not accept the welfare issues?”
The RSPCA confirmed yesterday that it is continuing to “regularly check” the site for any evidence of animal cruelty, and officers had last visited on Monday and intend to make further visits during the coming days.