Inspector throws out Leeds traveller caravan site appeal

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A PLANNING inspector has agreed with council planning chiefs - and thrown out a bid for a new permanent gypsy and traveller caravan pitch in a Leeds neighbourhood.

As previously reported in the YEP, a Leeds City Council planning panel had rejected the application for new pitches for a handful of caravans on the vacant bit of land in Sandon Mount, Hunslet.

Local families had pleaded with decision-makers not to approve the plans, as they believed it would sabotage their chances of getting a green space and community garden on bits of land either side of the contentious spot.

Now it has emerged that an appeal by the applicant has also been dismissed by an inspector - because he believed the site was “unsatisfactory” for habitation by the traveller families who might move there.

The council’s South and West Plans Panel was told today that the inspector considered the noise levels on the site were “unacceptable for living conditions”.

He added that the site was “unsatisfactory” and that the “immediate living needs” of the travellers concerned were already being met by a temporary site on Kidacre Street.

However he also noted the green space referred to was “not a useful green space” for locals, because it is “not allotment use and within private ownership”.

The inspector’s decision has raised further questions about the council’s policy on providing suitable traveller pitches, something it is legally required to do.

A report to the panel said: “The appeal decision would suggest that future sites for travellers need to be in locations which are suitable for general housing in terms of general amenity and noise, despite the fact that a particular applicant may be prepared to accept living on a site which suffers from high levels of background noise.

“This needs to be a consideration when progressing traveller sites.”

Coun Robert Finnigan told colleagues: “We are going to have to bite the bullet and find some suitable sites for travellers.”

The YEP reported earlier this year that a Government Minister had blocked council proposals to expand the permanent Cottingley Springs Gypsy and Traveller site by 12 pitches.

But the city also has to provide 62 traveller pitches - on the orders of the Government.

Leeds taxpayers have forked out more than £3 million in a decade to clean up and remove illegal traveller camps.

Since 2003, the average annual cost to the city of evicting traveller families was £255,000, with a peak of £325,000 in 2010.