Thousands sign petition against plans for travellers' site in Yorkshire suburb

More than 2,100 people have signed a petition to Sheffield City Council opposing plans for a traveller site in Beighton amid Liberal Democrat claims Labour councillors had it moved from their wards.

The proposal to use land off Eckington Way partly for a third city gypsy and traveller site is outlined in the draft Sheffield Plan, which states what types of developments can take place over the next decade. Opponents to the proposal, who include the ward’s three Lib Dem councillors and Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive Betts, argue the site is too near to congested roads around Crystal Peaks shopping centre.

Sheffield Council’s website says the city’s gypsy and traveller population is around 340 people in 100 households, who live on long-term sites in Halfway and Lodge Moor, plus in permanent housing. Neither can be extended as Redmires is green belt and Halfway is designated for light industry. An assessment made in 2019 identified a need for 50 new pitches by 2034, including spaces for new age travellers and travelling showpeople.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The petition launched by Michael Chilton, Labour’s election candidate for Beighton ward, states: “The main access road of Eckington Way is already congested, and this additional traffic would cause significant disruption. In addition, there is already one travellers site located in Sheffield South East, another placed in the constituency would not be proportionate where there are other areas of the city that would be better suited.

Opponents to the proposal include the ward’s three Lib Dem councillors and Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive BettsOpponents to the proposal include the ward’s three Lib Dem councillors and Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive Betts
Opponents to the proposal include the ward’s three Lib Dem councillors and Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive Betts

“Finally, the proposed site is not on the city boundaries like the current two. Placing it in the middle of a settled community does not make it suitable compared to the existing sites.”

Ward councillor Kurtis Crossland said: “The Local Plan was put together by the Labour-chaired transport, regeneration and climate committee. Other sites had been proposed such as in Deepcar and Hesley Wood – both Labour-controlled wards. Labour councillors for these wards pushed to locate the site in Beighton instead. This isn’t just about the proposed site, it’s also about the Labour Town Hall forcing things on to communities with poor consultation.

“The whole council voted in December to make the Local Plan public, which of course it should be, not to support it wholesale. Now it is finally out for consultation after 10 years, we are able to legally oppose these proposals. Living locally myself, I know firsthand this will cause problems with traffic. Traveller and travelling showpeople sites have worked well in other places but I don’t believe they would work in Beighton. That’s why it’s so important everyone replies to the consultation.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Coun Crossland pointed to an initial land allocation list that had land east of Eckington Way listed as partial gypsy and traveller site use. Hesley Wood is listed for travelling showpeople and Deepcar Household Waste Recycling Centre is earmarked as a gipsy and traveller site.

Mr Betts said: “First of all the site proposed is not just a travellers site, but also an industrial one. I am objecting to it on the grounds of traffic and congestion. Eckington Way is already gridlocked at certain times of the day and any further development would make this problem worse. The Lib Dems seem to be focusing only on the traveller element when the industrial site would also exacerbate traffic.

“With regards to the Lib Dem claims, they know very well that the local plan was agreed cross-party so it is completely wrong to say Labour decided to move the site from elsehere in the city. What I have now confirmed since speaking to council members is that Kurtis Crossland and the other two Beighton councillors knew about this site in the local plan since July 11, 2022.

“They were also offered multiple briefings to attend. I can’t confirm whether they did attend these or not, but they were offered. They did not table any amendments or objections to the site at the full council meeting on December 14 and then voted for the plan (including the site in question) that day. In short, they knew about this site for six months but didn’t object to it at any point until after it was posted publicly.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They have refused to admit their prior knowledge of the site as far as I have seen despite being asked.”

Coun Karen McGowan, chair of the South East Local Area Committee (LAC), said: “I understand the concerns regarding the allocation of the Eckington Road site as an industrial and traveller site. When developing site allocation, Coun Crossland, Coun McCann and Coun Woolhouse were sent the list of sites (including the Traveller site) on July 11 to undertake a ‘check and challenge’ process. In addition, a series of drop-in sessions specifically addressing the site list (Allocation List) were held during summer 2022.

“It is simply untrue for any Beighton councillor to say they were not aware of the site allocations. And I understand that none of them have raised any concerns at all about the sites throughout this entire process.

“The whole Local Plan has been delivered cross-party, and no one party in the council has a majority. Whilst Beighton councillors have not raised concerns previously, it is clear that residents have concerns around the site, specifically around the traffic issues which exist in the location and the impact further development would have.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It is exactly this kind of local intelligence the Local Area Committees were put in place to harness – to enable the council to make better decisions for its residents. This is why I have asked for a LAC meeting with council officers so they can hear the concerns of residents, to enable officers to respond and so that residents have the fullest of information in order to respond formally to the public consultation on the Local Plan”.

Deputy council leader Coun Julie Grocutt commented: “It’s incredibly disappointing to see Beighton Liberal Democrat councillors spreading such misinformation. Councillor Crossland make some serious and unsubstantiated claims. In the first instance, many sites were drawn up for potential use for development – be that for housing, industry or traveller sites.

“I know of one site in Deepcar that was at one point considered, but this site is currently used for a Household Waste Recycling Centre, which the council has no intention of closing and as such should never have been on a potential site list.

“Likewise, I’m aware of a site in Mosborough, which it’s worth noting has a majority of Liberal Democrat councillors, which was sounded out as a potential traveller site but did not make it on to the final list council officers devised. This whole process was led by council officers to stop the very thing that Coun Crossland is alleging.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The crucial thing is that the site allocation list for Beighton, and the whole of the South East, was put to councillors on July 11. The Eckington site was within this. Beighton councilors were offered multiple briefings by officers so they could lodge any issues they had. The whole process was completely transparent. Following these briefings and discussions within political groups the whole council then met on December 14 to vote on the local plan. All parties – Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green – approved the plans.

“Beighton’s Liberal Democrat councilors did not raise any concerns about the site selection and yet they now have the audacity to say they knew nothing. It’s worth stressing again that Labour councillors don’t have majority, or any Labour councilors in Beighton, and the Local Plan was delivered cross-party. Formal public consultation is now taking place to garner local opinion on all sites and I encourage all residents to have their say.”