Campaigners vow to take legal action over Wolverhampton traveller site
Campaigners against a transit site for travellers in Wolverhampton have vowed to take legal action against the city council after the controversial proposals were approved.
Plans for the site, off Gorsebrook Road, were given the green light by the authority despite strong objections from residents.
A statement from the St Peters Ward Residents Group said: "We plan to continue with our opposition to this site legally. The documentation we prepared in opposition to the plans was sent to the council along with everyone else's objections. The council did not take on board any of the objections. Our solicitor also submitted an objection and as yet has still not received an acknowledgement."
The former leader of Wolverhampton Council, Roger Lawrence, also said there will “almost certainly” be a legal challenge over the authority's handling of the traveller site.
The site will house up to 13 families at one time for a maximum stay of 14 days at a time with a review of the site after a year. The council says it will help cut yearly costs of moving on unauthorised camps across the city.
Gemma Taylor, from the St Peter's Ward Residents Group, said the decision was "extremely disappointing" but had been expected.
She said: "It was a done deal from day one but the fight shall go on.
"It was the result we've been expecting and it was rail-roaded through. They've ignored everyone's objections and I'm disgusted by it.
"It was something we all expected. But this is not the last you've heard about this – we will be taking them to court."
Interactive map shows site of land:
The group insists the plan means a loss of valuable green space for the community and claim the plans were sprung on residents "abruptly" while a public meeting held in October was poorly organised and not inclusive "with no intention of a meaningful two-way dialogue."
Campaigners also insist that convoys of travellers being escorted to the site will disrupt traffic in the area and that the land may be contaminated by former uses as a waste site.
The council said it had listened to residents' concerns and conditions were added such as making sure the site is staffed 24/7 with a dedicated phone line for residents.
There will also be monitored CCTV in place during occupation.
The maximum stay period was reduced from 28 days to 14 days and the period of ‘no return’ was extended from three months to 12 months.
Only travellers from unauthorised encampments within the City of Wolverhampton boundary will be escorted to the site by the police.
The decision to approve the plans came despite Councillor Roger Lawrence, former council leader, putting forward an amendment to reject the plans – citing parking, traffic, environmental degradation and ground conditions.
Ms Taylor, from Glentworth Gardens, said: "We will fight it every step of the way."
And she praised Councillor Lawrence for speaking up on behalf of residents.
"He has stood up and said what we wanted him to say – everything he said was stuff we had said in our objections."
Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the opposition, gave her backing to Councillor Lawrence's proposals along with Councillor Jonathon Yardley.
Stephen Alexander, head of city planning at Wolverhampton Council, said the land was "suitable" for the development.
He said: "All concerns and objections have been carefully considered and West Midlands Police is supportive of the proposals.
"It's acceptable for the specific purpose."
Judicial review ‘likely’ over transit site
During the planning meeting, Councillor Lawrence said there would be a “judicial review” amid calls the authority should have been more “open and transparent” over the discussions.
Councillor Lawrence, who put forward an amendment calling for it to be thrown out, raised issues over parking, traffic, environmental degradation and ground conditions.
He said: “The changes that have been made to the plans have achieved the impossible – they have failed to convince residents and made it more oppressive for travellers.
"The sites should have been subject to an open and transparent discussion with travellers’ groups who could have been involved.
“Members feel they have a gun pointed at their heads – agree to this or lose the injunction, but if we agree there will almost certainly be a judicial review.”
Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the opposition, said she found herself in the “unusual position” of supporting Councillor Lawrence’s views.
Councillor Thompson said: “It should have been more open and transparent.
"The cost, about a million pounds, if you’re going to spend that on something which is temporary, something which you may need to close, it’s a pretty weird way of looking after other people’s money.”
Stephen Alexander, head of city planning at Wolverhampton Council, said the plans had met people’s objections and was “suitable” for the development.
He said: “All concerns and objections have been carefully considered and West Midlands Police is supportive of the proposals.”
The council has added conditions including making sure is staffed 24/7 and that there is a round the clock phone line for residents. It will also be closely monitored by CCTV.
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