Mayor's decision on traveller camp sites in Leicester to be made January 4
A decision on where authorised traveller camps will be built in Leicester is to be made early in the new year.
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he intended to select sites to be developed on January 4.
Yesterday, the mayor said his predecessors at Leicester City Council had failed to deal with the long-running problem of illegal camps and the large costs associated with them.
"For decades, people have suffered from unauthorised encampments and pressed the council to do something about it," he said.
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"Sadly, councillors have run away from it.
"This issue has been avoided so as not to upset anybody, but it is not an issue that will go away.
"A need for sites was established five years ago but no progress at all has been made since then.
"We have had 115 unauthorised camps in the past three years.
"It will have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to clear up after them. That's not sustainable."
The council had been consulting on three potential sites to make into managed camps.
They are in Greengate Lane and Beaumont Way, both in Beaumont Leys, and Red Hill Way, in Mowmacre Hill.
Yesterday, Sir Peter said that officers had confirmed Red Hill Way and Greengate Lane were suitable for either permanent or transit sites with 10 pitches each.
He said Beaumont Way could accommodate a transit site with six pitches.
Sir Peter also said council-owned sites in Hoods Close, Beaumont Leys, and a sports ground by Braunstone Lane East were under consideration for small temporary sites, where travellers could stay for up to 28 days.
The Braunstone Lane East site sits in a flood-prone area and was under water this summer but the council said it could be used seasonally.
About 1,500 people responded to the council's consultation on the plans, which began in February.
Sir Peter said: "An overwhelming proportion – 71 per cent – said unauthorised travellers camps were a problem in their area.
"But many of them said they wanted that problem solving elsewhere."
He said travellers had said they would use the new sites.
"They do not want the hassle of being chased from one roundabout to a grass verge," said Sir Peter.
A series of petitions has been handed to the council opposing the three main sites, including one of 2,700 names from LE4 Action Group, though only 713 of the signatures were verified.
Nearly 200 names were submitted by Birstall Parish Council, with another 1,700 from people living in and around Heacham Drive, in Beaumont Leys.
Sir Peter admitted whatever decision he made would be un popular.
He said: "I am well aware of that but that is not a reason not to make a provision."
Once the mayor has made his decision, the selected site or sites will be considered by the council's planning committee.
Nearly £1.6 million has been secured from the Homes and Community Agency (HCA) to provide sites in the city, with the city council paying nearly £500,000.
To qualify for the HCA cash, the sites must be operational by March 2015.
Because of a city council embargo preventing the Mercury releasing the information in this story until today, the Mercury was unable to contact any other organisation or protest group involved in the issue.
Jubilee Square, Town Hall Square and city council’s headquarters suggested as sites
Leicester City Council initially considered 350 potential sites across the city for traveller and gypsy camps.
Those were assessed by officers for their suitability and narrowed down to eight.
The shortlist was further narrowed down to the three options now on the table.
As part of the consultation, people were asked to suggest alternatives.
The most popular locations for traveller camps – put forward by 100 respondents – were at the Leicester City Council headquarters in New Walk, in Town Hall Square, the proposed Jubilee Square or near the houses of the mayor and the city councillors.
Officers found none of those places would be financially viable.
The former bus depot in Abbey Park Road was suggested by 82 people, but this was ruled out because it is owned by a housing association and would be expensive to protect against flooding.
A dozen people suggested expanding the city’s existing Meynell’s Gorse camp, which has room for 21 families and a long waiting list.
This, however, was boxed-in by a wood, a road, a park and ride site and a railway line.