£5m cash granted to set up traveller sites in Leicestershire
Nearly £5 million of Government cash has been made available to provide new sites for travellers in Leicester and Leicestershire.
The money, for 56 pitches, is an attempt to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments.
Housing association Framework is to get £4.3 million to provide 50 pitches, while Leicester City Council successfully bid for £270,000 to provide six pitches.
Both organisations said they did not yet know where the sites would be.
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If built, the pitches would more than double the number of publicly managed traveller pitches in the county.
There are currently 20 at Aston Firs, near Hinckley, 21 at Meynells Gorse, in Leicester, and one in Hemington.
The money was welcomed by travellers' representatives but they warned 56 pitches would not be enough to meet demand.
Framework chief executive Andrew Redfern said the association would look to develop five pitches in Harborough and 15 each in Leicester, Melton and north west Leicestershire.
He said: "Deciding where these sites go is always a sensitive issue.
"There are some potential areas but we didn't want to identify any before we knew we had the money because it could lead to concern about something that may not happen.
"People's views are often that travellers are okay but not in their back gardens.
"It is the case that if we can't find suitable sites, we might not get the money.
"I honestly do not know where the sites will be. That is something we will be looking at over the next few months before we sign the contract.
"That's when the planning process will begin.
"We will manage the sites and provide good-quality accommodation.
"This is not just a question of laying a strip of concrete for people to park a caravan on.
"There will be bricks and mortar where we build accommodation for members of the travelling community not moving around – the elderly or children going to a specific school.
"We will also have install proper sanitation, electricity, communal space and play areas as well as buy the land."
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "The figures bid for by the city council and Framework are based on the sorts of numbers needed to address unauthorised encampments and contribute towards meeting the need identified in the city.
"We are looking at how and where this money should be spent to best meet the needs both of residents and the travelling community.
"A full consultation process would be carried out on any potential travellers' sites identified as part of that work."
Tracy Nedic, chairman of Leicestershire Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Group, said: "This will help because 56 pitches is good for 56 families, but it is not enough.
"Based on the number of gypsy families in and around the areas, we need triple that.
"I have also heard this kind of thing before and nothing has happened.
"It is one thing to say that there will be new pitches and another entirely to put it into action.
"We would like the sites to be on the outskirts of towns and villages but not next door to tips and sewage works."