Thursday, 10 April 2014

Council’s handling of St Cyrus Travellers situation branded ‘a farce’ - Aberdeenshire

From the Courier

Aberdeenshire Council’s handling of the Travellers situation at St Cyrus has been branded “a farce” by residents.

Home owners near the unapproved site, which sits close to St Cyrus Nature Reserve, have repeatedly lambasted the council for its handling of the situation since a number of caravans and building materials appeared on the land last 

Locals were shocked to see the land quickly transformed into a caravan site without council permission, and have hit out at the local authority after the Travellers withdrew their retrospective planning applications at the 11th hour.

The retraction of the planning applications has left residents living near the site in limbo over the future of the area, but the council’s area manager for Kincardine and Mearns, Willie Munro, has denied any council shortcomings and insisted policy was followed.

Homeowners are still too afraid to put their name in the public domain for fear of reprisals, but the recent development has left them calling for action.

One neighbour said: “We can’t quite understand how this has gone on so long. At least another two sheds have been built on the site and it looks like satellite TV dishes are there too.

“The other question is who owns the land?

“The council won’t say and the Travellers won’t say. It’s a farce from beginning to end and should never have happened.”

The two planning applications — one for a permanent caravan park and another for a turning circle and associated temporary holding facilities — were pulled from the grasp of councillors at the last minute by the Travellers.

The plans were recommended for refusal by council planning officers, a proposal backed by three out of four councillors, largely on the basis of flooding concerns.

An independent planning adviser now working with the Travellers has confirmed new applications will be submitted at some point in the future.

Mr Munro said the council had “followed its correct procedures” in dealing with the unapproved development, despite public criticism.

He said: “The planning application had been running through the standard process and was withdrawn by the applicant during the final stages.

“We have been advised that the new planning application will be lodged and will be addressing some of the issues which have been on-going.”

Meanwhile a court case between Aberdeenshire Council and James McCallum, the man named on the first and main application, is set to resume at Stonehaven Sheriff Court.

A sheriff is due to hear evidence in the dispute for the first time, following several false starts at previous hearings.

Plans for new Traveller site at Praze-an-Beeble unanimously rejected by Cornwall Council

From the West Briton

A CONTROVERSIAL application for a new Traveller site near Praze-an-Beeble has been turned down.

Plans from a Mr C Russell for change of use to a single family pitch in a field at Horsedowns, including a mobile home, compost toilet and shed, were unanimously rejected at a Cornwall Council planning committee meeting on Monday.

Councillors agreed the site was not in keeping with the surrounding countryside and said approving it would set a precedent.

When the proposal was put forward it caused outrage in the area and more than 100 people attended a public meeting earlier this year to object to the plans.

Local resident Martin Priest spoke on behalf of the local community at Monday's meeting, where he called for the plans to be turned down.

He said: "The consequences of a pitch on the land would be destructive to the countryside.

"We are against development in this field by anyone. Our concern is about a precedent it would set for unsustainable development."

The application also proposed some of the land be cultivated to include areas for tree planting, amenity space and a vegetable garden.

Crowan Parish Council objected to the plans, stating that the development would have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area.

Speaking at the planning meeting, parish council chairman Sandra Muriel said: "Crowan Parish Council has listened carefully to the significant number of concerns from our parishioners regarding this application.

"Previous applications for this site have been refused. We feel it would be unjust to approve this application."

Despite identifying a shortfall in Traveller pitches, planning officers recommended the site for refusal as it depended on a private vehicle to access services and facilities.

Cornwall councillor for Crowan and Wendron, Loveday Jenkin, spoke against the application, saying local residents' concerns about the site were legitimate.

She added: "If [the site] is not suitable for settled housing it should not be suitable for a Travellers' pitch."

Liskeard Travellers' Site Plans Spark Anger - Cornwall

From Pirate FM

A Cornish woman brands plans for a Travellers' site near Liskeard "disgraceful."

Cornwall Council wants to create a transit area at South Treviddo off the A38.

People would be able to pitch up for a maximum of three months.

Emily Simpson tells Pirate FM they have had trouble with stuff like litter when people have stayed before: "Obviously there's security issues, we're a farm we have valuable stuff in sheds. With the last lot arriving we had to put the gates up at the end. It shouldn't be like that. We've had enough, we've got the tip next door, we've got a windmill; how much more do we have to take?

"I think it's disgraceful. We've had enough. The junction at the A38/B3252 is not designed for more traffic. It's not designed for the traffic it's taking and more vehicles with caravans, you know, how many more people have to die? It's wrong."

Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing are holding a public exhibition in the Public Hall in Liskeard on Thursday to invite residents to view and give their opinions on the possible site.

Jane Barlow, managing director of Cornwall Housing explains: "We really want those who live in and around the area to come and see the details; speak to representatives from Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing and give their views."

Cornwall Council cabinet member for homes and communities, Geoff Brown, said: "There is an urgent need for a managed transit site and this piece of Council owned land is available and suitable because of its accessibility and location for a short stay transit site for no more than 15 families. Properly managed sites will reduce the number of unauthorised encampments which will benefit Gypsies and Travellers and the local settled community alike."

Holiday homes legislation causes 'headache' for Leicester Travellers' sites plans - Leicestershire

From the Leicester Mercury

A law designed to protect the rights of caravan park holiday home owners has forced the city council to rethink plans for Travellers' sites in Leicester.

The council has granted permission for 16 pitches over two sites it owns at Redhill Way and Greengate Lane, on the northern edge of Leicester. It had intended for them to be built and managed by the Framework housing association.

Now officials have discovered that by allowing another organisation to run them, it would lose control over who would be able to rent a pitch.

Under the Mobile Homes Act, after the first tenant puts up a temporary home on a pitch, they can sell or give it to whomever they choose, meaning the council would have no say over who lives there.

The council has decided to build and run the pitches itself. Framework, which successfully applied for planning permission, will be an advisor only.

City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby admitted the legislation presented the council with "a headache".

He said: "The law is there to protect the rights of mobile home owners on caravan parks, but it also covers us in this situation.

"I have written twice to Community Secretary Eric Pickles, asking him to amend the legislation and had a lengthy reply which basically says no.

"So we will have manage them ourselves.."

The cost of developing the 16 pitches is £1.83 million.

A report by planning officers says the Government's Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) will provide a £1.39 million grant "leaving a shortfall of £390,000 to be funded by the council".

Sir Peter says the decision not to let Framework run the sites had not affected the cost of the scheme. He e said it was always the intention that the council should contribute the £390,000 he has just approved.

It is expected the site will cost £60,000 a year to run, which Sir Peter says will be covered by rents paid by tenants.

The council, which already runs a Travellers' site at Meynells Gorse, expects an income of £65,000 with the surplus covering rent arrears and un-let pitches.

Both sites are expected to be ready for occupation by the end of March 2015.

Lindsey Richards, head of Midlands South for the HCA, said: "This funding will help the city council to satisfy its legal duty to try to meet the accommodation needs of gypsies and Travellers.

"We are looking forward to the completion of both sites next year."

The HCA is also funding the council's revamp of its gypsy and Traveller site at Meynells Gorse.

Work on its 21 pitches will start later in the year and will be completed by March 2015.

Travellers set up camp on former Frome Cheese showfield - Somerset

From the Frome Standard

A GROUP of Travellers have set up camp on the former Frome Cheese showfield despite measures being put in place to prevent trespassing.

Up to six caravans, vans and cars have been parked on an area near the Cheese Show office, Frome Cricket Club and the Frome Collegians football pitch for the past few days and they are believed to have entered the field via the entrance to the Frome Medical Practice and the Cricket Club.

According to town councillor Adam Boyden (LibDem, Frome College) the last time a group of Travellers set up camp in 2012, there were reports of excrement left in nearby residents back gardens and the collegians pitch dug outs, antisocial behaviour and litter, which cost the district council in the region of £2,500 to clear, though that had not been confirmed.

He said: "I received calls and emails from local residents at the weekend to inform me that a group of Travellers had moved onto the old Showfield. I informed the landowners, Frome and District Agricultural Society (FDAS), Mendip District Council's enforcement officers and assets department (as leaseholders), Mendip's Cabinet members responsible, the Police, Frome Town Council, Frome Medical Practice, Frome Collegians football club, and other local councillors. Residents had also called the police, who attended the site quickly. Some residents are worried that their back gardens will be broken into and used as a toilet, as happened two years ago.

"After inspecting the site, it appears that the Travellers have gained entry by removing or breaking down the bollard between the health centre and cricket ground and I have informed the police of this."

Frome mother Sue Baker who walks the public footpath from the showfield to the Frome Health Centre regularly with her nine-year-old daughter Abie and their cockerpoodle dog Merlin claims they were nearly run over by a Transit van driver on Monday lunchtime.

She claims the van was being driven at about 40mph and she and her daughter were forced to jump onto the grass verge to avoid a collision. Mrs Baker has since reported the incident to the police, who are appealing for witnesses.

She said: "It was a frightening experience and it was obvious the driver had no intention of stopping. This is a public footpath used by a lot of families who go to the playground and by dog walkers and elderly people."

However since the incident yellow gates at the top of the Frome Cricket Club car park have been opened to give access from the Rodden Road end.

Mrs Baker added: "We were walking along a public footpath which should not be driven on. It would be like me deciding to drive my car through the Westway Precinct, it just wouldn't be allowed."

Frome police have said enquiries are ongoing and anyone with information on the driving incident is asked to contact them on 101.

Landowners FDAS declined to comment.

Mendip District Council said it was following the necessary procedure in order to secure the removal of the group.

A spokeswoman said: "Mendip District Council's enforcement officers are aware of the Travellers on the Frome Showfield site and the necessary process has been started to secure the removal of these persons. The police have been notified of the alleged damaged caused by the Travellers gaining entry to this site and are currently investigating."

Travellers ordered to leave car park - Greater Manchester

From the Oldham Evening Chronicle

TRAVELLERS have been forced to leave a site in Royton after setting up an illegal camp earlier this week.

Seven caravans and other vehicles arrived on Tuesday evening at a car park on council land opposite St Anne’s Primary School. Environmental health officers contacted the police and visited the site yesterday. Police ordered the group to leave by 9am today.

After similar incidents in recent years, council-placed boulders prevented the Travellers getting into the nighbouring park.

“We don’t want to fence the park off and make it feel like Alcatraz just to stop people parking on the site, but we have had to compromise,” said local Councillor Steven Bashforth.

“It is inevitable that we will get people parking illegally like this in Royton due to the town being so close to a motorway.”

New housing sites for York - and controversial Travellers' site plans changed - Yorkshire

From the Press

CONTROVERSIAL plans for two Travellers sites in York are set to be abandoned, while potential new sites for housing schemes have been revealed

...It also said creating a Travellers site on the section of the land which is not prone to flooding would have “a significant adverse effect on the village’s character and setting” and would “encroach” on the surrounding countryside.

The site on Malton Road is also set to be dropped because the land would be too expensive.

Officials have also said the existing Osbaldwick site should not be expanded beyond the six extra pitches already planned, although three pitches for travelling showpeople could be created at a site called The Stables, in Elvington, and seven more pitches for Travellers may be set up at a separate site on Elvington Lane.

The report said York is likely to need 66 more pitches for Travellers over the 15-year lifespan of the Local Plan, which runs up to 2030, and the current proposals would leave a shortfall of 59, as well as a need to find five more plots for showpeople. It said “further site or policy options” will have to be looked at.

The Local Plan is expected to be in place by the start of next year and the council said it would formalise York’s green belt for the first time, but the amount of housing already proposed for greenfield sites has been heavily criticised since the proposals first emerged a year ago...

Travellers park on emergency air ambulance site in East Brighton Park - Sussex

From the Argus

This was the scene yesterday as a group of Travellers parked on the landing site used by the air ambulance service.

Residents and Travellers watched as two helicopters landed on the football pitch at East Brighton Park.

Police held back a convoy of vehicles and caravans trying to get on to the site from Roedean Road, causing traffic chaos as they waited for the helicopters to leave.

The Travellers arrived yesterday morning and set up camp on the pitches which are used by the Kent, Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance to ferry patients to and from the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

One of the helicopters that landed amidst the upheaval yesterday was carrying a 69-year-old woman who had fallen from a horse in Rocks Lane, High Hurstwood.

Just hours after the Travellers moved onto the site, police officers asked them to go.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police were informed of Travellers at East Brighton Park off Wilson Avenue, Brighton on Wednesday at around midday.

“Two helicopters needed to land at the park for medical emergencies and the Travellers moved immediately to allow them to land.

“They have now been served with a notice under Section 61 of the Public Order Act requiring the Travellers to leave. They are now in the process of leaving.”

The Travellers however, said they had nowhere else to go.

John Doherty, one of the Travellers, said: “We would be happy to go to the transit site at Horsdean and pay the fee but we are currently not allowed on to it due to drainage problems.

“We have been on the road and we need fuel and food. We just need to stay a few days.”

A council spokesman said: “There is reduced capacity at the Horsdean transit site because of drainage issues.

Total capacity is down from 17 units to ten.

“Of these six are currently occupied. We have offered the other four to members of the group at East Brighton Park but they have declined them as there is not enough availability to accommodate the whole group and they wish to stick together.

“Under these circumstances we have no powers to force them to accept our offer.”

Resident Lucy Shuttleworth said: “They are people and they get hounded everywhere, they need to have somewhere to go.”

Witnesses said the first group of Travellers made their way on to the site while the gate was open for a tractor that was mowing the pitch.

A second group of Travellers then arrived but were held by police while an air ambulance took off.

It is not known if these are the same Travellers who left Stanmer Park before an eviction could take place yesterday.

A planning application was approved in February for a permanent site of 12 pitches at Horsdean.

see also: Brighton and Hove news - Travellers ordered off Brighton air ambulance landing site

Brecon Gypsy and Traveller site at King's Meadow opens - Powys

From the BBC

A 15-year search for a permanent home for a family of Romany Gypsies in Brecon has ended with the opening of a new site.

The site at King's Meadow in Brecon has been backed by nearly £2m of Welsh government funds.

It is the first new local authority-owned site built in Wales since 1997.

The family had been living on a temporary site near Brecon since 2008 and before that lived in a lay-by in nearby Libanus.

There are currently 10 occupied residential plots with room for another four at the camp, adjacent to Brecon Enterprise Park.

Powys council had originally planned to build a permanent Travellers' site in Llanfilo, near Brecon, but its own planning committee twice turned down applications for it.

In 2008, the council temporarily placed the family in nearby Cefn Cantref but it did so without planning permission from Brecon Beacons National Park. The national park accused the council of a "flagrant disregard of planning policy".

An application by the council to extend the family's stay at Cefn Cantref until April 2012 was turned down by the national park in 2010, but an appeal against the decision was upheld by the planning inspectorate.

In April 2010, the saga cost the council and national park authority £250 each when the public service ombudsman for Wales partially upheld a complaint by a property developer, who owned land adjacent to Cefn Cantref.
Suitable location

Powys council was criticised for moving the family there without planning consent, while the national park authority was criticised for taking eight months to deal with a retrospective planning application for the site.

The ombudsman urged the council to find the Gypsy family a suitable location as a matter of urgency.

The King's Meadow site was opened by the Welsh government's Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister Jeff Cuthbert.

"I sincerely hope this site will be the first of many more new local authority sites to be built in Wales during the next five to 10 years," he said.

"We want to ensure the accommodation needs of all Gypsies and Travellers are adequately addressed."

The site is the second of its kind in Powys alongside the Withybeds camp in Welshpool which received a £1.3m revamp in 2010.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Travellers block Leeds city centre car park - Yorkshire

From the Yorkshire Evening Post

LEEDS City Council is facing more calls to come up with a permanent solution after two Traveller camps appeared in different locations in the city.

Around 17 caravans were reported at the old South Leeds Sports Centre in Beeston after boltcroppers were used to break into car park.

Residents claimed ugly confrontations with the travelling families were preventing the Beeston Broncos junior rugby teams from training or playing home matches while angry club members claimed they faced a significant clean-up once the Travellers had moved on

Meanwhile, another smaller encampment has also appeared this week under the inner ring road flyover at the intersection with Wellington Street.

Around ten caravans have taken up spaces, forcing drivers who usually use the site to find parking spaces elsewhere.

A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “We know unlawful encampments can have a detrimental impact on communities and we need to balance this with the welfare and needs of Travellers.

“We take concerns from local residents seriously and work closely with representatives of the gypsy and Traveller community to find pragmatic ways to deliver sites where Travellers can stay.

“We are also aware that the time taken for legal enforcement procedures to be processed by courts and carried out can be frustrating but we are making sure that we act as promptly as possible.”