Final say on gypsy site

ST Marks Church Hall West Hill'New Plans for the proposed Gypsey Site'PA1105-10d'Ready to talk to the public'Brian Worrell, Phil Oliver, Tim Welsh
ST Marks Church Hall West Hill'New Plans for the proposed Gypsey Site'PA1105-10d'Ready to talk to the public'Brian Worrell, Phil Oliver, Tim Welsh

A NEW gypsy site would give the area’s travelling community a home to be proud of for the first time – that is one view from a public consultation held this week.

Plans for a new 22-pitch site, opposite the current camp on Woldgate, have already been recommended for approval by East Riding of Yorkshire Council planners.

However, at a recent meeting of the council’s planning committee, county councillors decided more public consultation would be needed before a final decision could be made.

An open event was held on Tuesday at St Mark’s Church Centre on West Hill.

The current traveller site, which has been there for more than 20 years, has been deemed unfit for purpose. It was built on a landfill site from which methane gas is escaping and land under the concrete pitches has been shifting.

Brian Worrell, principal housing officer for ERYC, said: “The site has gone beyond its normal useful life. It is beyond economic refurbishment.”

Previous plans to build the new site on top of Woldgate hill were met with fierce opposition by residents last year.

“We listened and as a result of that we moved it from the top to the bottom of the hill,” said Tim Welsh, principal property officer.

The proposed site will be dug into the hillside and have extensive landscaping.

The new camp will mean the loss of a greenfield site but planners say soil excavated from the new site will be used to fill the old one in and the adjacent tip, meaning this will eventually become a field again.

“We hope we have got it right this time,” said Andy Hazell, ERYC principal surveyor.

Not everyone at the meeting thought this was the case.

Michael Wheeler, from Bessingby village, thinks a new site would be best housed on Bessingby Industrial Estate – land the council already owns. He said: “There has been an argument that where they are at the moment is closer to schools and doctors but why should they have preferential treatment – everybody else has to bus their kids to school and go by car to the doctors.”

The planners behind the proposal now believe they have the best location for the site, something which Rev Dave Chislett of St Marks Church, agrees with. He said: “I think it is a great idea and that it will be better for everyone. It’s important that we care for the whole community and treat people with respect.”

ERYC has secured £1.4million of Government funding to build the site which will include a warden’s block, five-space car park and 11 single-storey, semi-detatched amenity blocks to provide each pitch with a bathroom and kitchen facility.

Lindsey Jones is a project worker for Hidden Voices, the East Riding Gypsy Traveller Community Development Project. She said if this site does not go ahead, the council will have to give the funding back, but they will still have to find a new site.

“Some people do not agree with the site being built but at the end of the day the council still has a duty of care towards the people who live there,” she said.

Ms Jones thinks the travellers on Woldgate will take more pride in the new site because it will be like nothing they have had before.

“They have only ever had rubbish tips to live in, but how do you clean a rubbish tip. They would keep this clean and of a high standard because for the first time they will have something to be proud about,” she said.

Kathleen Smith, who has in the past lived on the Woldgate site, said: “A lot of people think gypsies get everything for nothing. But they pay rent, council tax, everything that everyone else does.

“They desperately need a new site because people are living in substandard conditions,” she added.

A final decision on the plans is due to be made at the end of this month.