A permanent campsite for travellers in Kirklees?

Travellers at Field Lane car park, Batley.
Travellers at Field Lane car park, Batley.

SINCE the start of the summer, traveller camps across North Kirklees have been a familiar sight.

Clusters of caravans have pitched up in car parks, fields and even at rail stations, and groups have been evicted from both council and privately-owned land.

Since April, the council has paid thousands to move on trespassing caravans.

The £25,000 spent on eviction proceedings by the council in this financial year has been solely for encampments in North Kirklees.

And in some cases, like in Batley, travellers are evicted only to set up camp on different land just metres away.

One traveller, Peter Cash, vowed that his camp would simply ‘go to another car park’ when evicted.

So has the time come for a new approach?

Last month a council spokesman said the council was considering alternatives to trespasser proceedings, but couldn’t elaborate on what they were.

Neighbouring authorities including Leeds and Wakefield have built permanent campsites so that travellers can pitch up safely without trespassing on council or private land.

In Leeds, around 190 travellers and gypsies rent pitches in its Cottingley Springs site, which provides electricity, water, hard-standing pitches and a postal service in return for weekly fees.

Built in 1969, the site was one of the first of its kind in the UK, and Leeds City Council has been drawing up plans to add 12 more pitches to house Leeds-based groups, funded by a £1m government grant.

A council spokeswoman said the site offered many benefits.

She said: “There are a number of big advantages to having a permanent site.

“Firstly it saves on the legal costs involved in removing unauthorised encampments- which cost us more than £300,000 in 2011-2012.

“It lessens the impact on local communities and the disruption caused by transient sites.

“It also meets the housing needs of gypsy and traveller communities, who then also pay rent for the use of the site.”

Coun Paul Kane (Lab, Dewsbury East), agreed that there are benefits to having a permanent site.

He said providing a designated campsite for travellers and gypsies would make it easier to move on trespassing camps from council land.

He said: “You can move them on within 24 hours because the police have somewhere to take them straight away.”

But deciding where a site could be placed in Kirklees could prove problematic.

Coun Kane added: “There are 69 councillors that I’m sure, like the Local Development Framework, would much rather it not be in their ward.

“If one or maybe three councillors and their ward would like to put their hands up I would be supportive of them.”

He said that a permanent site wouldn’t put an end to traveller evictions and believes camps would still pitch up illegally.

“A site certainly wouldn’t solve it, but it may make the problem a little bit better,” he said.

“We certainly need to try and come up with a better solution.

“I have got to say I have sympathy for all the land owners as well.”

A council spokesman said the council had no plans to build a permanent site.