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Plans for new 55-pitch traveller camp in Leeds branded ‘unacceptable’

Travellers at a recent unauthorised camp in a car park on Kirkstall Road, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

Travellers at a recent unauthorised camp in a car park on Kirkstall Road, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

Plans for a new traveller site in Leeds could give 55 families permanent caravan pitches in Morley, if they are accepted.

An expansive site either side of Valley Road, near Morley train station, has been earmarked for development to become Leeds’ largest traveller camp.

Plans submitted to Leeds City Council include 48 pitches, a play area, management cabin and bathroom facilities on one site and seven further pitches, a grazing paddock and a 40-space car park over the road.

Councillors have labelled the proposals “entirely unacceptable”, fearing they will raise tensions locally and do not fit policy guidelines that favour the development of smaller family traveller sites close to amenities.

Coun Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough Independent, Morley North) said: “It’s contributing nothing to resolving the overall traveller issue, it will result in the same sort of tensions as Cottingley Springs. It’s entirely unacceptable from our point of view.”

A public meeting to discuss the planning application has been arranged at Morley Town Hall on Monday May 12 at 7pm.

Coun Neil Dawson (Lab, Morley South) has voiced his opposition to the plans, which relate to land formerly occupied by an oil recycling distribution centre.

“I do not feel that site is suitable and would ask the applicant to withdraw the application pending discussions with the council,” he said.

Around 20 objections have already been submitted by residents online outlining concerns over school places and how the location of the site could put visitors off exploring the area.

But traveller welfare group Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange believes that although the plans are not for small family pitches, being close to amenities like a train station could be of benefit to roadside families. Chief executive Helen Jones said: “I hope the application is treated as a normal planning application and that a decision isn’t in anyway based on a prejudiced view of people that live there.”

The application comes as the council announced it would set up an interim traveller site at Kidacre Street, in Hunslet, to reduce the need for travellers to camp illegally in Leeds.

The camp will house groups until the decision of a planning inquiry on plans to expand the council-run Cottingley Springs site from 41 to 53 pitches.

Coun Peter Gruen, the council’s lead member for neighbourhoods and planning, said: “We know how frustrating the situation is for everyone involved and have made every effort to find solutions which achieve the most possible agreement.”

Comments on the Morley plans can be submitted until May 29, before planners make a decision in mid July. Visit publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk and search for application 14/01914.

 

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