A final decision on controversial plans to extend the travellers’ site at Cottingley Springs has been taken out the the city council’s hands by the Secretary of State.
Eric Pickles’s office confirmed yesterday that Leeds City Council’s decision to allow an extra dozen pitches on the site betweeen Gildersome and Beeston has been called in because he believes “the proposal concerns matters that may conflict with national policies”.
Over 800 people recorded objections to the application when it went before councillors in December .
Yesterday, Coun Robert Finnigan (Ind, Morley) described Mr Pickles’s decision as “not just a victory for local residents, but for the travellers as well”.
Coun Finnigan said: “This was an application which was unwelcome but our job now is to get ready for the planning inqiry and, when we have the opportunity, to make sure that we are clear about why we see this proposal as unacceptable.”
The Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE) also welcomed the Secretary of State’s decision, although spokeswoman Helen Jones lamented the time lost looking for alternative solutions.
“We know we need more pitches in Leeds - significantly more,” she said. “However, even if this site went ahead, there would still be a job to be done and it’s a shame Leeds City Council didn’t address it before. If it had, we might be much further down the road towards a solution.”
However, Leeds City Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and support services, Coun Peter Gruen, defended the council’s position.
He said: “Leeds has a record to be proud of when seeking to make sure the needs and wishes of both local and gypsy and traveller communities are taken into account.
“We are determined to be fair to everyone and reviewed over 200 sites before identifying Cottingley Springs as a suitable location.
“At the same time, we also believe it is important to make sure encampments in unsuitable locations are moved on.
“Now that the Secretary of State has called in the planning decision on the expansion of the Cottingley Springs site, we have no option but to wait on the outcome of this process.”