Leeds City Council to approve traveller plan

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Plans for a £1m expansion of Leeds’s only permanent traveller site look set to be approved – despite over 800 objections.

A report to Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel recommends the plans for expansion at Cottingley Springs in south Leeds be approved, although the final decision could be made by the Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles should he call the application in.

Concerns over road safety, impact on the greenbelt, antisocial behaviour and a need for wider distribution of traveller sites across the city have been voiced to the council.

The plans, which will see the site grow from 41 to 53 pitches, could receive the council’s stamp of approval on December 12.

In a report to the plans panel, officers said: “It is clear that there is an identified short-term need for additional pitches for travellers which should be met urgently and that there are significant implications for the council and existing communities from illegal encampments if that need remains unmet.

“The proposal to layout an additional 12 pitches at Cottingley Springs follows an extensive site search for council owned land which is suitable and available.”

Despite the recommendation to approve the plans, planners acknowledge “the site has relatively poor sustainability credentials” and that it is “not well located in relation to services and facilities and will consolidate an existing travellers’ site”.

Concerns have been raised over the plan’s suitability by hundreds of residents, politicians and organisations including Gildersome Parish and Morley Town Councils, Morley North councillors Robert Finnigan and Bob Gettings and Coun Ann Blackburn (Green, Farnley and Wortley).

Helen Jones, chief executive officer at Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, said: “We don’t think making Cottingley Springs larger and larger will solve any problems, it just means more people are having to live with the consequences of those decisions.

“But people are homeless and in need of accommodation so we are struggling to wholeheartedly oppose the plans.”

She said Leeds GATE favours five smaller, family-sized traveller sites spread around the city.

Justice for Travellers claim the plans could “create friction in the travelling community”.

The expansion is hoped to reduce the council’s reliance on spending to clear unauthorised encampments – something that has cost over £2.4m in the last decade.

PIC: Simon Hulme

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