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UNDER-FIRE: Possible U-turn on traveller site in Newcastle

UNDER-FIRE: Possible U-turn on traveller site in Newcastle

Traveller caravans parked on a field in Cowgate, Newcastle, Image: NCJ Media

Under-fire council chiefs could make a U-turn on claims there is no need for a permanent traveller site in Newcastle.

The city council has announced that it is to launch a new review into the needs of traveller groups pitching up in Tyneside, after major concerns were raised this summer.

The Labour-run local authority was accused in July by one of its councillors of being “hostile” towards the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community and “in denial of a whole community’s needs and way of life”.

Criticism from South Jesmond councillor Lesley Storey came after a large group of travellers was evicted from a field in Cowgate, before another group set up camp on the same field a few weeks later and sparked complaints over human faeces, broken glass, and other rubbish being left strewn across sports pitches.

Further worries over a lack of provision for travellers also emerged after a group took over part of the Claremont Road car park opposite the Royal Victoria Infirmary in order to allow a family to be close to a seriously ill child being treated at the hospital.

The city council claimed in July that there was “no need” to reverse the stance taken in 2017 that there was no demand for a dedicated site to accommodate travellers in Newcastle, something criticised by both Coun Storey and the Liberal Democrat opposition.

But Coun Stella Postlethwaite has now announced that a new review will be held early next year following the series of incidents this summer.

The authority’s cabinet member for policy co-ordination and communications told a full council meeting on Wednesday: “As the 2017 survey is nearly five years old and in consideration of the travellers that came to Newcastle earlier this year, we as a council will consider the requirements again and this will form part of our Local Plan evidence.

“This new assessment had been scheduled for later in 2022, but will be brought forward to early next year.

“This time, the study will also consider the experience of these communities in terms of access to different types of housing, their experience of accommodation, and their experience of associated support services.”

Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone raised the issue and said the problems relating to traveller encampments were not a result of groups being in the city, though it can cause “local tensions”, but a lack of appropriate provision for them.

He asked directly if the council’s policy would be changing, to which Coun Postlethwaite said the authority was being “responsive to circumstances” by bringing forward the review.

 

Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter


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