Council confirms £320k travellers' site deal
PUBLISHED: 09:32 06 January 2015 | UPDATED: 14:53 08 January 2015
MORE than £320,000 will be spent building two traveller pitches in Weston and refurbishing five more in the new year, despite neither neighbours nor people living on site supporting North Somerset Council's plans.
Work is set to begin on improving the Willowmead site in Moor Lane soon so the council can make the most of a Government grant it receives, although the authority will still contribute more than £100,000 from its own resources.
Planning permission was granted in August despite a series of objections.
The Willowmead Gypsy and Traveller site has five residential pitches which are let out to long-standing tenants and the council wants to extend the site to add two more.
The refurbishment planned includes upgrading kitchens and bathrooms where necessary, replacing boundary fencing and improving drainage.
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, executive member for housing, said the authority has checked what other councils pay for similar schemes and believes taxpayers are getting the work done for a ‘very competitive rate’.
However plans to extend Willowmead have not proved popular with people living on site or those nearby.
Marie Owens, who has lived at Willowmead for 20 years, wrote to the council to criticise its plans, saying she had not been consulted properly and it would cause problems with parking.
Fellow traveller Helen Hill was similarly critical and does not believe it will improve conditions for the people already living there.
She said: “We have not had a proper consultation.
“The Willowmead site has been overcrowded for 10 years with three generations on one plot living in one caravan.
“Bringing on additional families would impound the human rights of the entire site and neighbourhood.”
People living near Willowmead expressed concerns to the council before planning permission was granted.
David Frost, of Carousel Lane, wrote to the council, saying: “Mixing of travellers into residential areas is something neither party would want. There are many barren wasteland areas available in North Somerset away from other people’s homes.
“The families living on the site currently are superb neighbours and I have never had any problems (with them) however to have it as a travellers site I feel would not be so secure.”
In total 16 letters of objection were sent to the council and no letters of support.
The council believes the changes at Willowmead will remedy problems with overcrowding, bring in extra rental income and reduce the need for future higher maintenance costs.
A review into North Somerset’s traveller pitches requirement in 2011 estimated about 60 more would be needed by 2016. The two that will be built at Willowmead will help the council towards that target, while Elim Housing is already building 24 pitches at Old Junction Yard off Winterstoke Road.