Decision day nears on plan for £1.4m gipsy and traveller camp

COUNCILLORS are meeting next week to decide on proposals for a new £1.4m gipsy and traveller camp on the outskirts of Bridlington.

The facility is a replacement for a current site on the opposite side of Woldgate and will have 22 pitches.

East Riding Council, which has secured the funding from the Homes and Communities Agency, says the 20-year-old camp, which was built on a rubbish tip and has methane leaking from it and poses a "significant health and safety threat to its occupants".

The new facility will have four more pitches than the current site and 11 amenity blocks containing bathrooms and kitchens. There'll be a warden's block, with the earth excavated from the new site used to regrade the existing gipsy site once it has been cleared.

Although planners back the development, Carnaby parish council has objected saying they "don't agree or accept that it has to be there" and "don't think it will stop the yearly invasion of the playing fields".

Town councillor and former Mayor Cyril Marsburg, who was opposed to the original plans for the camp being sited on Bessingby Hill by one of the main routes into Bridlington, said he believed the site should have stayed where it was, adding: "I just think it is a waste of money in this particular economic climate."

However Lindsey Jones who runs a Lottery-funded project, Hidden Voices, which fights for the rights of the traveller community, said: "The site looks like a prisoners' exercise yard with caravans. Why should it bother other people if these communities are going to be given up-to-date facilities?

"At the site at Brid they are paying something like 57 a week and what they get for that is a concrete slab, a little toilet facility and one or two showers for all the residents to share.

"I think a lot of people don't think gipsies and travellers are worthy of a nice facility. They are still human beings."

East Riding Council says replacing the facility on the current site would be "prohibitive".

A report says consultants were employed two years running to look at the site and concluded that without the complete removal of the buried waste there would be potential for the same problems to occur in the future.

It says subsidence is damaging permanent buildings and has caused failings of some of the infrastructure, including the drainage system.

It adds: "An improved and larger site would provide accommodation for those members of the gipsy and traveller community that are currently unwilling to locate on the Woldgate site for health and safety reasons and are choosing to locate on unauthorised sites."

The portfolio holder for cultural services, housing and public protection, Coun Jane Evison, said it made sense to use the funding which came from the previous government.

But she said she wanted to see better links with parish councils who have problems with illegal encampments and said a forum, involving police and other agencies, would be set up in the New Year to help deal with the problem more efficiently.

She said: "Money is very tight at the moment and I am not advocating that I am particularly in support of this but the thing to remember is that it's old money that was given to the East Riding some considerable time ago. "The current site is deemed to be unsuitable and it will eventually start costing the East Riding.

"I'd rather do it this way assuming the planning application goes through."

Councillors are being recommended to approve the application which will be heard at a meeting at County Hall in Beverley next Thursday.

There are two other authorised gipsy and traveller camps in the East Riding.

The council is also looking to double the size of its site in Eppleworth Road, Cottingham, to accommodate 20 pitches.