Piecemeal travellers’ sites are ‘not the solution’ for Leeds pitch shortage

Residents at Sandon Mount, Hunslet, Leeds, at the overgrown site which was proposed to house traveller pitches
Residents at Sandon Mount, Hunslet, Leeds, at the overgrown site which was proposed to house traveller pitches
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PLANS for a small travellers’ caravan site next to a Leeds primary school have been thrown out by Leeds planning chiefs by the narrowest of margins.

As reported by the YEP last week, locals had pleaded with councillors not to approve the plan for Sandon Mount in Hunslet as they felt it would sabotage green space plans for the area’s children.

At its decision-making meeting, the South and West plans panel rejected the application for one permanent caravan and two pitches for travelling families, but only by a handful of votes.

The committee acknowledged the city has to provide 62 traveller pitches on the orders of the Government.

Councillor Kevin Ritchie told the meeting: “There’s clearly a shortfall in provision for the gypsy and traveller community.”

But the panel was also told: “We have a responsibilty to both travellers and the residents.”

The council is awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State about expanding its existing permanent travellers’ site in Cottingley Springs. That site has 41 permanent pitches, but could have 12 more built.

Phil Crabtree, the council’s chief planning officer, said the authority has already made “quite a lot of progress and has pro-actively brought forward two sites” - the Cottingley Springs expansion plan and a new temporary site on Kidacre Street, also in Hunslet.

The meeting heard that waiting for the Secretary of State’s decision would be preferable before approving any other permanent traveller pitches, because if that plan gets the go ahead, the council will already have fulfilled almost half the requirement for 62 pitches, and may be able to bypass a more piecemeal approach which could prove more contentious in the long term.

A total of 89 people had written letters supporting the application from Michael Maloney, but there had also been 51 objections from local families living in the quiet cul de sac.

Michael Maloney, the applicant, who plans to live on the site with his family, told the panel there is “no room on Cottingley Springs” at present.

Asked by councillor Ann Castle why, if he wanted a stationary caravan site, he could not live in an ordinary house, he responded: “You would not like to live on a caravan site would you? It’s the same thing.”

Kenny Saunders, representing Hunslet Carr Residents’ Association, said caravans being towed into the quiet residential cul de sac” would be disruptive, adding there would be a “spillover threat” of additional caravans.

The site in question is disused and overgrown allotment land which was sold by the council into private ownership many years ago.

However the land sits directly between two bits of council-owned land which locals hope will eventually become much needed play and gardening space for local youngsters. All three plots sit directly across the road from Hunslet Carr Primary School, which has no playing fields of its own.

The meeting was also asked why there was a proliferation of actual and possible traveller sites in the south of Leeds, and “what about the rest of the city?”

The Secretary of State is due to deliver his decision on Cottingley Springs in December.

The meeting was told that if approved, the new site could be ”up and ready” in between nine and 12 months.

Meanwhile a formal planning application for a small number of temporary pitches on Kidacre Street is expected to be submitted in November, and the site could be operating within six months.

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