Scrutiny councillors in North East Lincolnshire have agreed to move forward with a controversial shortlist of potential travellers sites in Grimsby.
The list of temporary stopping places is now set to be rubber stamped at a meeting of the Tory-led authority’s cabinet tonight (Wednesday, November 6).
The five sites proposed, cut down from a 25-site list, are:
- Former youth club on Wootton Road, Nunsthorpe
- Torksey Drive and Toynton Road site, off Winchester Avenue
- Land under the Cleethorpe Road flyover
- Garibaldi Street car park
- The car park off Wellington Street
A designated stopping site for gypsy and traveller communities is legally required under the authority’s local plan.
However, since their announcement the proposed sites have, on the whole, suffered significant backlash from nearby communities who have outlined fears of rising crime and antisocial behaviour.
Councillors from both wards spoke at the meeting to say they were not against the need for a travellers’ site, but argued that the two most deprived estates in the town were not the right place and would be harmed by the move.
There were also warnings that local businesses and community centres could close due to residents being “put off” from visiting.
They called on the council to look again.
Cllr Jane Bramley, from South Ward, said: “The areas you have chosen are really not suitable, not even on the East Marsh.”
She said her ward instead needed more bungalows and 1/2 bedroom homes, which she said the sites would be “perfect” for.
Councillor Stephen Beasant, from East Marsh, said: “none of the five sites are suitable”.
“If we move to consult on them it won’t be a true consultation.”
He asked for the council to start again, and involve the traveller, gypsy and Roma communities in future discussions.
“We have got to get everybody on board with this decision and we will not do that unless we turn back to square one,” he said.
Opposition scrutiny councillors called for a Select Committee to be set up with Councillor Gemma Sheridan adding: “I believe it’s really important to find the right place for these sites. It should not just be a mechanism to move travellers on. It should be about finding the right place that will be used.”
However, others questioned the need for further delays – pointing to the debate originally starting in 2014.
Chairman councillor Lia Nici said: “I’m astounded that the five year process that you have had hasn’t already spoken to travellers and gypsy groups. This is absolutely ridiculous the time and cost this has taken.”
Councillor John Fenty, who is leading the latest plans as portfolio holder for housing, said he understood the difficulties.
“Over the past five years the can has been kicked down the road for choosing an appropriate site and that has not happened,” he said.
“We cannot put such a facility out in the sticks, we’re not allowed to,” he said, adding that it is “vital they have… facilities.”
He added that due to the recently announced General Election, purdah would prevent public consultation until after the vote, giving councillors 15-18 weeks to have their say.
A recent meeting on the Nunsthorpe Estate saw residents threaten to make travellers feel “very unwelcome” while a Councillor Bramley warned of “World War Three” on the estate and reporting social media posts about petrol bombs being prepared.
Petitions have been handed in to the authority against sites both on the shortlist and those on the original 25-site shortlist.
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