Walsall Council leader defends travellers site as it welcomes first arrivals

A council leader has defended the decision to open a new traveller transit site as it welcomed its first arrivals.

The new council-run traveller site welcomed its first guests at the weekend
The new council-run traveller site welcomed its first guests at the weekend

Councillor Mike Bird has said that Walsall Council has a duty to provide a transit site for members of the travelling community after the new site on the junction of Pleck Road and Darlaston was used at the weekend for the first time since opening six months ago.

Six caravans moved into the site on Saturday after they were moved from an illegal encampment on Broadway, and Councillor Bird spoke about the need to provide a specific site for travellers.

He said: "We have a duty by law as all authorities do to provide a travellers transit site and we hadn't had one until six months ago, so it's been a long time in the making.

"With the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, we have had some unauthorised encampments and the transit site is now available for them to use, with the police being able to invoke stronger powers to remove them from the borough if they refuse to use the site."

Councillor Bird said the sites were equipped with welfare area and toilets and other facilities to help them to conduct their own culture way of life in a place which is secure and covered by CCTV cameras.

He also said that while he acknowledged residents concerns about the site, he was bound by law to accommodate the travelling community, but also said he would keep an eye on how the site performed.

He said: "Residents will campaign against traveller site wherever that may be, but the law is quite clear and we, as an authority, have a duty to accommodate these communities.

"We did do an extensive survey of how this could be set up, which was subject to an all party scrutiny committee and the site that came out best was the one we owned.

"For now, I can't answer any questions about whether there are any problems with the people who are there, but I would give the reassurance to the public that it is being looked at how the site performs and whether it is a natural fit and fit for purpose."

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