Hundreds turn up to traveller camp meetings over Leicester City Council plans
Hundreds of people in Leicester attended meetings last night to discuss controversial plans for three travellers' camps near their homes.
The plans have been drawn up by Leicester City Council for pitches at Greengate Lane, Red Hill Way and Beaumont Way, on the northern edge of the city.
A meeting was due to be held earlier last month, but had to be abandoned after 400 people from Leicester's Abbey and Beaumont Leys areas tried to squeeze into a room designed for 80.
Last night, 600 people attended a meeting at Beaumont Leys leisure centre to voice their concerns to Mayor of Leicester Sir Peter Soulsby.
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A female resident who lives near Beaumont Way, said: "My issue is in the word 'travellers' – that means they do not want a permanent home.
"People are terrified. I've spoken to people with shops near Beaumont Leys Lane and they're terrified, too."
A man in the audience, who lives near the proposed Red Hill Way site, said: "You say they want permanent sites, so why don't they go on the housing list like everyone else?
"You say you have looked for the best sites for the job. How can you say that Red Hill Way is a good site when it's so close to the flyover?
"You are asking for trouble."
Earlier in the evening, 70 villagers packed out Birstall village hall, in Birstall Road, for a similar meeting.
Most people there were opposing the Greengate Lane proposal.
Gerald Morling, 75, lives near the proposed site. He said: "It's congested as it is. I'm upset, especially as the city council has put them all in one area."
One woman, 50, who also lives near Greengate Lane, said: "I know they've got to go somewhere, but that somewhere should be somewhere else."
The sites would cater for about 26 families and would be built on land already owned by the city council.
It is understood the authority hopes to approve plans for at least two of the three proposed sites. If approved, they would be set up using more than £1.5 million of Government cash.
The travellers would mostly be temporary tenants and would pay rent, council tax and charges for gas, electricity and water.
Speaking before the meetings, Sir Peter, who will make the final decision over the sites, said they were the "only permanent solution" to a long-standing problem.
He said: "In the last three years, there have been 90 unauthorised encampments – most in this part [north] of the city."
"The only long-term answer is to provide more permanent sites, where we can expect – and insist – the travellers use them.
"The problem is in this area, so to put the sites on the other side of the city would not make sense, and would not work."
Another meeting to discuss the plans will be held tomorrow at Birstall Social Club, in Wanlip Lane, at 5.30pm.
Members of the public have until Friday, April 13, to express their views to the city council. To take part in the consultation, visit: www.leicester.gov.uk/gypsyandtravellersites