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PLECK TRANSIT SITE: Decision to create a traveller’s site causes fury with residents

PLECK TRANSIT SITE: Decision to create a traveller’s site causes fury with residents

Image: LDRS

Residents and ward councillors have been treated “contemptuously” over a proposed Walsall traveller transit site, it has been claimed.

A decision by Walsall Council’s cabinet to place a facility for the gypsy, Roma and traveller (GRT) community on authority-owned land in Pleck was called in for scrutiny.

People from the area said there had been no consultation prior to the decision being made last month.

They added the site was unsuitable due to issues such as pollution, traffic and would put a strain on local services such as schools and doctors.

But a motion put forward to try to overturn the cabinet decision was narrowly defeated by scrutiny committee members on Monday (March 1).

Cabinet chiefs said issues would be addressed when a planning application comes forward, which will also include a full consultation with all residents, ward councillors and interested parties.

Representatives from the GRT community told the meeting they were not wanted anywhere and the reaction would be the same wherever the site was placed.

Shakil Younis, a nearby resident, said: “We haven’t got an issue with the travellers and they have exactly the same rights we have as residents of Pleck.

“We are angry with Walsall Council over the lack of transparency.

“Wolverhampton has a similar project and what they did was a public consultation, inviting all the people directly affected by these proposals and sat down and had a discussion with them.

“But what has Walsall Council done? Nothing. Because they don’t want to hear from us. We mean nothing to them and we’ve just got to pay council tax.”

Pleck councillor Naheed Gultasib, who set up an online petition which attracted more than 600 signatures against the proposal, said: “The community of Pleck feels Walsall Council has acted contemptuously towards them in allocation of this site.

“We deserve the same consideration and consultation as other wards when decisions as impactful as this are made.”

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz added: “My constituents are angry and bewildered by the cabinet decision to set up a transit site at Narrow Lane. This decision is a flawed decision.”

Walsall Labour Group leader Aftab Nawaz said: “This call in is not against the gypsy, Roma and traveller community.

“The GRT community is a valued and integral part of our society and should be shown the level of respect we would expect to be shown ourselves.

“If the administration continues with the decision to place the transit site in Pleck, after our arguments, we will work to ensure that all our communities work together to promote understanding, togetherness and cohesiveness.”

Lynne Cherry, head teacher at nearby Hilary Primary School, said they were “proud” of their diversity with pupils speaking 50 different languages.

She said: “I would be happy to have additional children if needed and I do believe we could cater for additional needs.

“I do think it is a poor site. I know how busy the roads are around there, I know how poor the air quality is. I think the site is too small for groups to use. Where would children play? Children currently in Pleck have inadequate play space.”

Council leader Mike Bird said they had been looking at a site in private ownership but that hadn’t materialised.

He added Pleck was the only site they owned that was suitable for fulfilling their legal obligation to provide a transit site.

Deputy leader Adrian Andrew said: “Many of the arguments, concerns and questions put forward will be heard during the planning process. And the consultation will be undertaken through the planning process.

“We’re going through a process currently. We have taken this policy decision with all the facts in front of us.

“This is to ensure the GRT community have facilities but also we can help alleviate some of the UEs we have had over the years.”

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter

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