Leeds traveller site controversy

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Campaigners are clinging on to the hope that the Secretary of State for Communities will block a bid to expand Leeds’s only permanent traveller site.

Leeds City Council’s plan to add an 12 extra pitches to the Cottingley Springs complex, in south Leeds, were approved by council planners last week but the final decision is up to Eric Pickles MP should he call the plans in before mid January.

The £1m plans attracted over 800 letters of objection from neighbouring residents, campaign groups and politicians.

Coun Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough Independent, Morley North) claims that prior to the council’s approval of the plans he was told that Mr Pickles was “inclined to call it in”. Should he decline to examine them, the expansion will go ahead.

Coun Finnigan said: “If you look at national policy, local policy, ministerial pronouncements and the opposition from many of the travellers on the site, you would have thought it was a nailed-on refusal. I’m pretty confident that should the Secretary of State see it, he will see it is a bit of a charade and he will refuse it.”

The plans, which will see the site grow from 41 to 53 pitches, were approved in principle by the council’s City Plans Panel last week.

The decision came despite concerns over road safety, impact on the greenbelt, antisocial behaviour and a need for wider distribution of traveller sites across the city being voiced to the council.

The Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange welfare group has previously said that the numbers of “homeless” Leeds travellers leaves the organisation “struggling to wholeheartedly oppose the plans”.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “We have carried out a lot of work to get to this point, and are confident that this option will best meet the needs of travellers in our city.”

Jason Greenwood of Mamas & Papas

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