Bid to ban all travellers from areas of Leeds in legal first

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Leeds is aiming to be the first city in the country to ban all travellers from camping hot spots, as it tries to tackle a £200,000-a-year problem.

The council is planning to go to court to seek a landmark injunction which would mean any travellers setting up unauthorised camps on specified pieces of local authority land would be committing a criminal offence punishable by jail.

The council, despite spending £90,000 less on

clearing unauthorised camps last year than in 2011/12, is likely to try to use the release of £1m plans to add 12 new permanent traveller pitches at Cottingley Springs to persuade the courts to grant the new tougher injunctions.

The plans come after the council spent £10,000 on two permanent injunctions against two named Leeds traveller families, but which were ineffective against travellers from outside the city twice in just over a month.

Coun Peter Gruen, the council’s lead member for neighbourhoods and planning, told the YEP: “I think it’s money well spent because it sends a message that we are not going to mess about.

“I think the next decision will be instead of taking out injunctions against named people, I think we are trying to take injunctions out against specific land and that would be a first ever.”

Initially such a crackdown on all travellers would likely focus on parts of Armley, Wortley, Burley and Kirkstall where two Leeds families have already been banned.

Of travellers from outside of Leeds, Coun Gruen said: “They are no part of Leeds and those are the people you do want to clamp down on. We are not just a northern magnet for travellers.”

Helen Jones, chief executive officer at Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, said looking into such punitive measures is “shameful” when the council has yet to deliver on its aim to create 48 new pitches for travellers by 2015.

She said: “In these financial times it is a despicable waste of Leeds people’s money to do that.

“It’s staggeringly stupid, it doesn’t resolve anything.”

Ms Jones has urged the council to set up more authorised temporary sites, where travellers agree to a code of conduct, such as trialled in Holbeck last year – something Coun Gruen has said would be considered given the right sites.