Sir Peter Soulsby sees off Labour challenge on Leicester travellers' sites
Labour city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has seen off a challenge from within his own party on his controversial decision to develop two managed travellers sites.
Last night members of Leicester City Council endorsed the mayor's plans to set up council-controlled pitches in Red Hill Way, Mowmacre Hill, and Greengate Lane, Beaumont Leys to try to reduce the number of illegal camps in the city
It followed a challenge to the decision by five councillors representing the Beaumont Leys and Abbey Wards who said residents were strongly opposed to having the sites near their homes.
They used "call in" rules to try to force a debate to get him to rethink the decision, which he had been set to sign off.
It was the first time the legislation had been used to challenge a mayoral decision since Sir Peter was elected.
Beaumont Leys councillor Paul Westley called for his colleagues to reject Sir Peter's decision but only eight out of 54 supported him.
He said: "I am disappointed. It's totally unacceptable to my constituents. They feel this part of the city is being unfairly burdened by too many plots."
Fellow ward councillor Sundip Meghani said illegal camps were a citywide problem needing a citywide solution.
He said: "All of us recognise the problem with illegal encampments. It's been going on for decades but this approach is the completely wrong approach."
He said he was disappointed more members of the Labour-dominated council did not support a rethink but said the sites would still would still be fought at the planning stage."
Labour members of the planning committee, except for Coun Meghani, opted not to take part in the debate at the town hall last night, despite council lawyers telling them it would not prejudice any future decision.
Sir Peter told councillors successive administrations had run away from tackling the issue of illegal camps for years.
He also said the problem had historically been greater in the north west part of the city and that was the best place to solve it.
He also said that the 16 pitches proposed at the two sites were not a panacea and that a need for 40 pitches had been identified.
He said: "This is just the start of the process.
"It is good that we have had this debate. There was no whip on it and it is right the councillors should represent the views of the people in their wards.
"I am glad the council has endorsed my decision."