AN organisation which offers support and advice to the Leeds travelling community is appealing to local councillors not to use a camp on Cross Green Lane as a political football in the run-up to local elections.
Leeds City Council has been a leading light among local authorities with a progressive policies on the issue, working with travellers to identify negoatiated stopping sites around the city which can be used as short-term solutions for families waiting for more permanent bases.
A site on Dolly Lane was used recently, the travellers moving themselves without council intervention when the agreed three-month period expired. However, with no other site yet designated, some have since returned while others have set up camp off Cross Green Lane.
The Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange say the travellers’ arrival at the new site has prompted complaints from ward councillors, who have applied pressure on council officers to have the families moved.
Spokeswoman Helen Jones is concerned councillors may be motivated by impending elections and has appealed to members to take a broader view.
“I would urge councillors to check if the electorate really wants to shoulder the expense of constantly persuing these families and moving them on,” she said.
“The rules of gravity apply equally to them as the rest of us and and the laws of nature say their feet must fall somewhere on the planet.”
The travellers claim they have nowhere else to go and have tried to cooperate with the wishes of council and local residents under the principles of negotiated settlement - which have worked well for both sides until now.
A notice requiring the families to move by noon yesterday was rescinded by the council’s legal team - but the families don’t yet know how long they will be allowed to stay.
“We tidied up the site when we arrived and we know we’re parked under a CCTV camera so the council can see what’s happening here,” said traveller, Daniel. “If we’re moved, we have nowhere else to go.”
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “Unlawful encampments can have a detrimental impact on communities and we need to balance this with the welfare and needs of travellers. We’re assessing the options available for this group of travellers in line with our policies and the legal powers available to us.”