Government urged to block Coseley temporary travellers' site after plans backed
Campaigners have lost their fight to stop a 40-pitch travellers' site being built near their homes – but have been thrown a lifeline by an MP who has asked the Government to call in the decision.
In a close 5 to 4 vote, Dudley Council's planning committee approved a three-year travellers' site near Budden Road in Coseley at a meeting last night.
The proposal had sparked a 1,000-name petition and a barrage of complaints on the authority's website.
Now Pat McFadden, whose Wolverhampton South East constituency includes Coseley, has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to request that the council's decision is revisited.
Protester Tony Sheldon, of the 500-strong Coseley Focus Group, said: "We're all completely gutted because of the effort we've put into this campaign.
"But this decision was made by a Conservative-heavy committee and at least, with the Secretary of State, we stand a fairer chance of being listened to."
Coseley councillor Sue Ridney said: "I'm disappointed obviously but it's not over till it's over."
Opponents of the scheme cited contamination of the ground, which they claimed was the council's own reason for refusing previous applications by sports clubs who wanted to set up bases there.
Councillor Ridney said: "The last application was in 2011 and no work has been done since then, so the contamination still exists.
"Whatever you think of travellers, it's wrong to put them on there."
The council argued that clearing travellers off unauthorised sites costs around £150,000 a year.
The cost of setting up a temporary dedicated site is estimated at £280,000, so would save taxpayers' money in the long term.
They added that although clubs had applied for planning permission for the site, the bids were not officially recorded because they were incomplete.
Principal planning officer Peter Reed said that no concerns had been raised over the site by the authority's contaminated land team.
Issue was also taken over the planning conditions, which include that no caravan should be nearer than 45 metres to any residential properties.
Mr Sheldon said: "Those measurements are not to the garden boundary but to the window of the nearest property. It will be only be 31m to the garden boundary.
"One councillor was up in arms a few weeks ago over a traveller incursion on Buffery Park that was 100m to the nearest homes.
"This is less than half that distance. Why is that unacceptable but this one not?"
Mr Reed said the separation distances were larger than a similar site in Sandwell which had seen a 75 per cent reduction in illegal encampments since it was opened.
The planning committee made their decision after a deferment to visit the site. The meeting heard that any contamination would be revealed during the building process and remedial work could be taken at that stage.
Some committee members said it would make better financial sense to abandon the scheme and find a permanent site.