Plans for traveller site on Leeds-Wakefield border rejected by Eric Pickles

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Residents on both sides of the Leeds-Wakefield border are celebrating the decision to turn down plans for a traveller site on their doorstep.

Controversial plans submitted by Tom Spaven for a 10-pitch permanent site close to the M62 in Castle Gate, Stanley, have been rejected by Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles on the advice of a planning inspector.

Residents and politicians sent in more than 1,200 objections to Wakefield Council’s planning department after more than 200 residents gathered at a community meeting to oppose the idea back in March 2012.

Despite the public outcry from residents in Carlton, Lofthouse, Ouzlewell Green and Stanley, officers initially recommended the plans be approved before a committee rejected the proposals and the landowner lodged an appeal last year.

But Wednesday’s decision has been described as a “hollow victory” by a Leeds traveller group, who claim there are still scores of homeless people forced to live on the roadside in the region.

Vikki Stansfield, secretary of Stanley Residents Group, said: “It is a huge relief after two years to finally know that our greenbelt land has been protected.”

Concerns were raised that the site could lead to an increased risk of crime – though the site’s owners moved to state a warden would be on site at all times – while voicing fears over the loss of greenbelt land and the dangers of having a traveller site just yards from the motorway.

Coun Jack Dunn (Lab, Ardsley and Robin Hood) said: “It’s a victory for common sense and the two communities of Stanley and Lofthouse who have combined together to object to this.”

Coun Karen Bruce (Lab, Rothwell) added: “This proposed traveller site would have been an unsuitable development encroaching on to the greenbelt.”

But Helen Jones, chief executive of Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, called the decision a “kick in the teeth” to people who have done everything asked of them by planners at considerable person cost. She said: “I personally know many of the people who would have lived at Castle Gate and I can assure local residents who may be inclined to celebrate this decision that they have won a hollow victory indeed.”

The landowner did not wish to comment on the decision.

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