Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby signals rethink over travellers’ sites
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has hinted he may rethink the council’s controversial plans for authorised gypsy and travellers sites in Leicester.
Three plots in the north of Leicester have been earmarked by the city council as potential managed camps and Sir Peter is finalising which, if any, should be developed.
The managed sites are intended to reduce the number of illegal camps on private and public land.
Sir Peter said he was hoping to make a decision in the near future but revealed recent discussions with travellers’ representatives had influenced his thoughts on sites in Greengate Lane and Beaumont Way, both in Beaumont Leys; and Red Hill Way, in Mowmacre Hill.
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Sir Peter said: “They have argued for smaller sites, rather than the large multi-family family sites.
“They say smaller sites are easier to manage both for them and us.
“That is a very powerful argument.”
Sir Peter also suggested very short-term temporary camps could be set up, away from residential areas, to deal with seasonal demand such as when travelling families are moving for the fruit picking season in the summer.
He said: “There are three needs here. Firstly, there is the need for virtually permanent sites, for the travellers who do not move very much.
“They would need to be near services such as schools and shops.
“Secondly, there is a need for transit sites for those who move throughout the year and there is the third need for peak transit sites which could be very temporary, for a few weeks.
“Those could be further away from the services.”
He said there were potential council-owned sites for such plots.
A 700-name petition has been collected by the LE4 action group, made up of residents in Leicester and villages on its northern edge, who are against the existing plans.
Sir Peter said he understood the weight of residents’ concern but was frustrated by campaigners from outside the city and councillors from Charnwood Borough Council complaining about his plans.
He said: “Charnwood has far more opportunity to solve the problem than we do.
“I would hope they would spend less time complaining and more time looking for possible sites themselves.”
Charnwood Borough Council leader Councillor David Slater said: “Our travellers’ camps will come forward with our local development framework which we hope will be approved in the last quarter of 2013. As yet, we don’t know where they could be.
“I would be quite happy to join any consultation with Sir Peter. I would like to meet him and talk about the effects of concentrating travellers’ sites in one area right on the edge of Charnwood.”