City leaders plan to relocate York Traveller camp after councillors’ outcry
York council chiefs have pledged to relocate a Gypsy and Traveller encampment following a petition by ward councillors.
As we reported on Sunday, an unauthorised encampment has been in place on the Noddle Hill layby, off the A166 Stamford Bridge road east of York, since June 2019.
Osbaldwick and Derwent councillor Mark Warters has been urging the council to take action since then, but the city councillor in charge of housing, Cllr Denise Craghill, said it was a “very complex situation”.
Dunnington Parish Council chair Gill Shaw told a transport decision session meeting: “The encampment is an eyesore. Dunnington residents have said that they feel intimidated when using the Noddle Hill public right of way.
“By virtue of the City of York not having taken action against the Travellers over the last four years, the lack of action amounts to permission.”
Cllr Warters, who submitted the 51-signature petition with fellow ward councillor Martin Rowley, said the council had effectively caused the problem in the first place by evicting a Traveller family from the official Osbaldwick Traveller site around two-and-a-half miles away.
He added: “There’s talk – and that’s all it is – of interim and long term solutions to this matter.
“You’ve had four years to solve this and this council has done nothing other than spend £12,000 per year on water supplies, £1,400 pounds per year on a site toilet and it’s anybody’s guess what the regular rubbish clearance costs are – all to encourage and facilitate this encampment.”
‘Twin track’ approach
The precise details of the family’s circumstances have been kept private and were discussed without the press and public during a closed section of the council meeting.
Cllr Andy D’Agorne, executive member for transport, and Cllr Craghill agreed on a “twin track” approach which will see the layby closed once the Travellers have been rehomed.
The council’s Local Plan, which has not yet been adopted, will provide for a further 44 authorised Gypsy and Traveller pitches, according to the council’s report, though York Travellers Trust has criticised the Local Plan because it says it fails to identify appropriate sites for new pitches.
Cllr Craghill said she recognised the concerns of residents.
She added: “The complexity of this situation, and the requirement to consider the council’s duty to prevent homelessness, its social care duties and human rights and equalities legislation, are key components in this decision
“The process to stop-up the Noddle Hill layby is the most practical and reasonable way forward in what is a very complex situation.”
Council officers will first need to establish who the layby legally belongs to as it is currently unclear. Trees will then be planted in the area to try to avoid a repeat of the situation.
Cllr D’Agorne said: “We as an authority have to make that balance between the individual rights of all involved in this situation.”
Identifying suitable accommodation for the Travellers needed to be done “as quickly as possible”, he added.
A project manager role in the council is also to be created in order to work with developers interested in building on York Local Plan sites so they can discuss provision of extra Traveller pitches.