A ROW has broken out over where travellers’ sites might be located in Leeds.
Bosses at Leeds Council want to introduce new measures to reduce the number of unauthorised camps which have cost taxpayers almost £2m in clean-up and eviction and legal costs since 2003.
One of the key proposals is the creation of more caravan pitches which, it is hoped, will encourage traveller families with Leeds connections to set up camp at places endorsed by the council.
Sites are currently being considered and yesterday Coun Peter Gruen, the council’s deputy leader, said once sites had been identified the issue would be debated in public.
But last night Coun Les Carter, the Conservative group’s shadow spokesman for neighbourhoods and housing, said he was concerned the process was not transparent.
He said he believed a number of possible locations have been looked at to provide pitches but is worried no details of any possible sites have yet been made public.
Coun Carter said: “If the ruling administration believes this is a good policy then why not have it debated? Why not issue this list of possible sites for a public debate?
“At the moment there is absolutely no certainty as to where this site will be placed. All we know is that there are plans for a new site and these have been in place for quite some time.
“I have no idea why this is shrouded in secrecy. It is likely to be a key issue for local communities and if a new site is to be delivered local people should be given the right to vote on whether or not they believe the plans are appropriate,” Coun Carter added.
Coun Gruen (Labour, deputy leader of council and executive member for neighbourhoods, housing & regeneration) said: “The policy of Coun Carter’s administration led to £2m of public money being wasted on court and clean up costs with no progress made towards solving the problem of unauthorised encampments.
“We have been completely open about our willingness to consider a different approach, which includes providing new permanent traveller sites in Leeds. This issue has been the subject of much public discussion and the council’s executive board has publicly debated reports on the issue on three occasions over the past year.
“The process to identify new sites is detailed and will be thorough and comprehensive and as such, it will take some time. We have been clear that once this search is complete, the results will be reported to executive board and debated publicly.
“We have also been clear that local people will be consulted on any potential new site before any planning application is submitted. I completely reject any suggestion that this process is anything other than open and transparent.”