Leicester mayor to step up search for possible city travellers' sites
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has asked officials to start looking for privately-owned sites which could be turned into managed camps for gypsies and travellers.
Earlier this month, Sir Peter announced his intention to develop council-owned plots of up to 10 pitches at Red Hill Way, Mowmacre Hill, and of up to six pitches at Greengate Lane, Beaumont Leys.
However, he says planners have identified a need for at least 40 in the hope they will provide alternatives to illegal camping on roadsides and roundabouts in the city.
The two proposed sites were selected from 350 in the council's possession. The others were ruled out for various reasons after about a year of consultation and intense opposition from nearby residents.
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However, the demand has still not been met, Sir Peter told councillors.
He said: "There was quite a degree of hostility to all the suggestions. Even with the sites I have identified, we still fall a long way short of the demonstrated need.
"I have to acknowledge we have exhausted the council-owned sites. I have asked officers to come up with a process of identifying sites elsewhere in the city that are outside council ownership.''
He said no privately-owned sites had yet been earmarked, but said he had asked officers to look into possibilities.
He said: "I want them to present me with options as to how to identify potential sites.
"It could be asking ward councillors if they know of suitable areas, though I don't imagine they will rush forward with suggestions in the areas they represent. It is about doing it systematically over the city."
He said he hoped officers would be able to start looking for sites within three months.
As reported in yesterday's Mercury, Sir Peter's original choices have prompted five Labour councillors to take the unprecedented step of challenging his decision by officially calling it in.
That means it will be debated at council next week.
The call in came from the members for the Abbey and Beaumont Leys Wards, Annette Byrne, Harshad Bhavsar, assistant mayor Vi Dempster, Sundip Meghani and Paul Westley.
Only Coun Westley has responded to the Mercury's efforts to speak to them about why they took the step.
He said he was pleased a proposed site at Beaumont Way had been ruled out and stressed he had opposed the Greengate Lane option since "Day One." He said: "We are still concerned about the impact on highways on the Red HIll Way roundabout and Greengate Lane."
Tory opposition councillor Ross Grant said: "There will be people worried about where the mayor will look to put more pitches. It is still hanging over everyone because, by his own admission, what he has announced does not meet the need."