2,600 protest over Darlaston travellers site plan

Three petitions signed by more than 2,600 people against plans for a travellers site in Darlaston have been handed over to council bosses.

2,600 protest over Darlaston travellers site plan

The old Darlaston Multi-Purpose Centre site had been earmarked by the authority to become a permanent site for travellers, prompting concerns there could be issues with litter and anti-social behaviour.

The three petitions, totalling 2,604 signatures, will be discussed by council bosses at a council meeting on Monday.

An online petition, compiled on website change.org, contains 859 names, a handwritten petition with 360 signatures calls for any use of the site by travellers to be rejected while a second handwritten petition containing 1,395 signatures asks that the site be only used for housing.

Plans to turn the closed-down centre in to a site for 15 permanent traveller plots have been fiercely opposed since they were first mooted.

In September, more than 350 people descended on Darlaston's All Action Centre for a packed-out public meeting on the issue, with people having to be turned away from the door as the venue reached capacity.

Councillor Doug James, who represents Darlaston North, said the amount of signatures collected was a testament to the hard work of campaigners.

He said: "This is clearly a sensitive issue and residents have their concerns, so I am hoping that the discussion on Monday will help move things forward in a suitable manner.

"I think people are right to have their concerns over these plans, especially considering the lack of information they have been given in terms of what these proposals actually mean for them. "I would like to thank all of the campaigners who have accumulated this amount of signatures as they have given thousands of people a chance to have their voice heard.

"The problems that could arise from this proposed site are far reaching.

We have thousands of families on waiting lists for homes and we have a lack of school places available, so putting more families in the town isn't going to help. There are also concerns over anti social behaviour issues."

Travellers have been seen at various locations in the borough, including Barr Beacon nature reserve and at , where around 16 caravans arrived on the historic site, raising concerns over potential damage to a war memorial.

Over the last few days, a small group of travellers set up camp on a residential car park at Dolphin House, Goscote, before being moved on by the council and pitching up just across the road.

Gypsies and travellers have a long association with Walsall, but only comprise a very small part of the total population.

In the 2011 Census, only 287 residents - out of a total population of 269,323 - described their ethnic origin as Gypsy or Irish Traveller.

The council is required to create 39 permanent residential pitches for travellers across the borough between 2008 and 2018.

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