Leeds pioneers new style traveller site EXCLUSIVE

COOL MOVE: Lewis plays in a paddling pool on the site of a new travellers' site in Bath Road, Leeds. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
COOL MOVE: Lewis plays in a paddling pool on the site of a new travellers' site in Bath Road, Leeds. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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The first temporary traveller site authorised by Leeds City Council has been set up in the city.

Around 11 caravans and a number of vehicles recently moved on to the site, in Bath Road, Holbeck, before negotiations between the council and the family yielded a short-term agreement to stay on the land.

The YEP understands that the family, who permanently reside in Leeds, has agreed to look after the land, ensure numbers are restricted and agree to acceptable behaviour until it is reviewed in late September.

Helen Jones, chief executive officer for Leeds Gipsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE), said: “I’m personally pleased and delighted and relieved that at least we are making the right moves that are genuinely going to improve the quality of life for the people on the camps and it’s very important for the communities of Leeds who have quite often been on the rough end of the council’s previous unhelpful policy.

“It is entirely a short term measure to enable reduced costs but access to healthcare and education – if it works at Bath Road there is no reason why it can’t be applied elsewhere.”

She said that the fact that the site is a “containable space” will mean that no more travellers than agreed can pitch up on the land.

If successful, it is thought that the landmark agreement could set a precedent for similar short-term deals in communities across the city.

But it appears that negotiated stopping on council land is not an alternative to plans for 12 new permanent traveller pitches in Leeds, after the council was given £1m of Government money to fund them.

A mother of six now residing on the site in Holbeck, who wanted to be known as Tracey, told the YEP: “It is good that we can stay in one place, where you can get in and get the kids to school on time, so I’m glad the council have agreed to leave us here for a while – it is unsettling, it’s depressing being moved around. In June the weather we had meant we have been up to our necks in muck being dragged off sites.”

Coun Peter Gruen, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “This agreement is the first of its kind that Leeds has tried and is the result of looking at innovative ways to encourage a more positive and trusting relationship between the council, the public and gipsy and travellers.

“We accept that it will be a challenge but we are committed to making this work and bringing to an end the cycle of illegal encampments that are expensive to the council in terms of legal and clear-up costs.”

He said the council is working to find longer term housing solutions for travellers in Leeds and that the Bath Road site is not one of those options.

Unauthorised camps cost the council nearly £2m in legal and clean-up costs since 2004.