Temporary traveller site in Hunslet debated by Plans Panel

A site earmarked for use by Gypsies and Travellers at Kidacre Street is being hailed as a potential solution to a cycle of encampment and eviction for Travellers in Leeds.

Gypsy caravans on Brown Lane, Holbeck in December 2013
Gypsy caravans on Brown Lane, Holbeck in December 2013

As previously reported on South Leeds Life, the site has been operational since May 2014 and last week was discussed by the City Plans Panel. The site in Hunslet is close to Crown Point Retail Park, whose owners objected to the site citing fears of increased crime. However they were not able to provide any evidence.

Concerns about anti social behavior from Leeds School of Motorcycling are to be addressed by intensive management of the site by Neighbourhood Policing, Dog Wardens, Environmental Action Officers and Leeds GATE. The planning officer’s report stated that families on the site are all registered with local GPs and children are attending local schools.

The site, which had been empty for a number of years, offers an interim solution for the city while council plans to expand the current Cottingley Springs Travellers site are being looked at by the Secretary of State and other permanent sites are sought.

Helen Jones, Chief Executive Officer from the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE) which represents the Gypsy and Traveller community said:

“The Leeds City Council negotiated stopping policy, which has led directly to this interim solution for homeless Gypsy and Traveller families, is nationally recognised as good practice. It has significantly reduced community tensions and unnecessary expenditure caused by unmanaged encampment. The City Council is to be applauded for its pragmatic, solution focussed approach which leads to better outcomes and wellbeing for all its communities including Gypsies and Travellers.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel said:

“I am keen to meet concerns raised by local communities, as well as trying to provide suitable places for Travellers to stay and reducing costs for arranging alternative pitches and evictions. I recognise we aren’t going to be able to come up with a perfect solution everyone is happy with, but this can provide a stable housing option for seven families for up to three years. Kidacre Street is close to amenities for Travellers to use, and provides an alternative to unlawful encampments elsewhere in the city.

“This short term solution can make a real difference as we wait for progress following the judgement about Cottingley Springs from the Secretary of State, which we had hoped to see in coming months.”

The report presented to plans panel on Thursday (30 October 2014) recommended the application be approved. An amendment was passed at panel so the decision has been deferred to officers and that the approval be in place for three years.