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WALSALL: Work begins on traveller site

WALSALL: Work begins on traveller site

PIC: Gurdip Thandi LDR

Work to create a temporary travellers site which has provoked strong opposition and support in Walsall has begun.

Walsall Council is introducing a six-caravan facility to be used by members of the gypsy Romany and Traveller communities on authority-owned land off Narrow Lane in Pleck.

In the first phase of works for the development, contractors moved on to the site this week to clear vegetation and develop a new access point from Darlaston Road.

This initial phase is anticipated to last until the end of the month but further works such as creating the pitches on the site will follow.

Earlier this year the council unveiled it had identified the space to create the transit site to fulfil its legal obligations to provide one and said the location was the best place for it.

The proposals sparked anger amongst some members of the community who argued the space wasn’t suitable and too small given the average encampments saw 10 or more vans set up camp illegally across the town.

More than 2,000 residents signed a petition against it raising other concerns including impact on traffic, services in the area and a lack of consultation.

But, in an emotionally charged scrutiny meeting in April, traveller Abiline McShane said the GRT community felt they were not wanted anywhere.

Other supporters of the transit site said objectors would not have voiced opposition had the development been housing instead of the facility for travellers.

Council planners granted permission for the scheme in July although Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz urged the Government to ‘call in’ the decision.

With work now starting in the area, residents living nearby have again expressed their concerns about the development.

One said: “We’re not very happy but that’s because of the roadworks that will be taking place. It wasn’t that many years ago that they did all this work to widen Darlaston Road and now it is going to be narrowed again.

“The previous works caused damage to my house and the neighbour’s house so we’re worried about what might happen once it starts up again.

“I’ve nothing against the travellers who will be coming as long as they abide by the rules the same as everyone else and they don’t leave a mess behind.

“That’s the way they want to live and we all have our own way of living.”

Another who did not wish to be named added: “We didn’t want it here. I’m very disappointed the council didn’t listen to us. There are decent families living around here in decent properties but are now worried.”

A spokesman for Walsall Council said: “Work to construct a Temporary Traveller Transit Site at the junction of Old Pleck Road and Darlaston Road has commenced.

“The first phase of the works will be to create a new vehicle and pedestrian access point from Darlaston Road onto the site.

“Access to the site using Narrow Lane will be removed to minimise disruption to residents and the surrounding community.

“During the construction of the new junction, working hours will be restricted from 9.30am to 3.30pm to minimise the inconvenience to road users.

“To create sufficient space to work safely, the road has been temporarily narrowed as Darlaston Road approaches the junction with Old Pleck Road.

“Additionally the footway has been closed and pedestrians are being diverted via Wellington Street, Narrow Lane and the footpath through to Old Pleck Road.

“This footway closure is only in place for when work is taking place and will be lifted being lifted on site overnight and at weekends.

“This initial phase of the work is expected to be completed by the end of November.

“Following this it is anticipated that work will progress on developing the site itself including construction of the pitches, installation of utilities and provision of showers and toilets.”

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter


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