Rethink on Leeds gipsy site plans

Council chiefs in Leeds are being urged to provide more gipsy and traveller sites to help tackle the problem of unauthorised camps.

The call comes in a draft report produced by the council's environment and neighbourhoods scrutiny board - a watchdog body - which has held a major inquiry into the issue.

Among its key recommendations are that the council should consider:

* Creating more negotiated stopping sites and transit sites for short-term stays;

* Providing an extra 25 permanent pitches for a group of travelling families who remain in the Leeds area for most of the year;

* Reviewing Cottingley Springs - the city's only gipsy and travellers site with 41 pitches - to see if more spaces can be provided there.

The report also notes that Kirklees and Calderdale councils have no gipsy and travellers sites and stresses a "wider strategic approach" across the Leeds city region is needed to providing more spaces.

Some councils around the country already provide negotiated stopping sites where there are services such as toilets and temporary water supplies for which the travellers pay.

The inquiry was prompted following problems last summer when between April and October there were 54 unauthorised encampments in Leeds.

Over the past seven years the council has spent nearly 2m on legal and other costs associated with unauthorised camps.

While acknowledging more permanent sites will completely solve the problem, the report says: "We consider the current policy of the council in moving what are regarded as 'Leeds' gipsies and travellers around the city from one unauthorised encampment to the next to be probably untenable and that a new approach must be developed to try to address this issue."

The draft report will be discussed by board members on Monday.

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