MP demands Government halts Walsall traveller site plan

Angry opponents of a controversial planned traveller site in Walsall have called on the Government to halt the project.

Aerial view of the proposed travellers transit site on the corner of Darlaston Road and Pleck Road, Walsall.Photo: Google
Aerial view of the proposed travellers transit site on the corner of Darlaston Road and Pleck Road, Walsall.Photo: Google

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz said both residents and the gypsy, Romany and traveller (GRT) community had been “let down” over the six-caravan facility set to be created on Narrow Lane in Pleck.

She has written to Robert Jenrick, the secretary for state for housing, communities and local government, to “call in” to look at what she called shortcomings in the application.

Earlier this month Walsall Council’s planning committee backed the transit site, hailing it as a “massive step” to improving relations with the GRT community.

But members heard Mr Jenrick could still decide to intervene and, despite planning permission being granted, it couldn’t be acted upon until the secretary of state’s office formally responds.

Mrs Vaz said issues such as poor air quality, drainage and refuse collection had been ignored while she added it was “disturbing” that GRT families would be escorted on to the site by police.

She said: “At least 2,000 people who live and work in the area of Pleck signed a petition objecting to this application.

“Ninety-seven per cent of those who contacted Walsall Council about this application objected to it. Local residents are overwhelmingly opposed to this application. They have been completely ignored.

“Local residents and the GRT community have been let down.

“Walsall Council have both failed to listen to residents or abide by the principles of openness, transparency and good-administration – it is now up to the Secretary of State to uphold these principles by calling-in this application.”

The issue caused controversy when it was put forward at a cabinet meeting back in February.

Opponents including Pleck ward councillors Naheed Gultasib and Khizar Hussain – who spoke at the planning meeting – said they were not against the GRT community but believed the site was too small to cope with the size of incursions the town had experienced in recent years.

They also raised concerns about pollution, traffic and impact on local services.

But, at a highly-charged scrutiny meeting, traveller Abiline McShane told councillors they felt there were “not wanted anywhere” while supporters of the transit site held a Romany Day celebration there in April.

At the planning meeting, Walsall Council’s Paul Gordon said: “The site was recognised as positive by representatives of the GRT communities.

“We do need a transit site in Walsall. We do have responsibilities under the Equalities Act and under the Human Rights Act to provide a facility.

“The location of Narrow Lane is absolutely suitable for a transit site and we are doing a lot of work in the community who understandably are nervous about some the elements of the GRT community.

“In my view this will be a massive step in terms of improving the relationship between the GRT community and the existing communities of Walsall.”

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