Labour Councillors at North East Lincolnshire Council have called in what they call a “farcical” consultation on a controversial designated stopping place for travellers in Grimsby.
The authority’s leadership in November approved a recommendation to take a five-site shortlist forward for public consultation and begin technical assessments of the sites – despite a backlash from nearby residents and ward councillors.
The sites, which would reportedly provide a 14-day maximum stay, were all in the South and East Marsh wards.
Supporters said they would provide secure areas for the travelling communities and reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour by providing more powers to deal with illegal encampments.
Opposition campaigners however, say all the proposed sites – whittled down from 1,300 potential stopping places over the past five years – are “unsuitable” and have warned of criminal recriminations and the closure of local businesses and community centres.
The call-in request, originally submitted shortly after the decision in November, has been made by Labour leader Matthew Patrick, and South ward member Janet Goodwin.
They said: “Despite clear public opposition to all five potential sites, the administration has ignored the views of residents to engineer a ‘fait accompli’ consultation that has no concern for the direct adverse impact it will have on both the local and traveller communities.”
They call on the cabinet to “abandon the current farcical so-called consultation” and listen to the public.
They said the exercise was “pointless” and “aimed to stitch-up the final decision”.
They also want the authority “to review sites that have not been ruled out by the previous administration, this would exclude from the process such sites as the Nunsthorpe sites, Cromwell Road sites and all existing car park provision in the borough.”
The councillors argued “genuine engagement” with stakeholders would get the best outcome and be cost saving “in terms of reputational damage and social challenges that will come from a poorly located site”.
The five sites proposed are:
- Former youth club on Wootton Road, Nunsthorpe
- Torksey Drive and Toynton Road site, off Winchester Avenue
- Land under the Cleethorpe Road flyover
- Garibaldi Street car park
- The car park off Wellington Street
Following the meeting in November, council leader Philip Jackson said the “right decision” was made and that anxiety and uncertainty across the borough had been reduced.
“This is a public consultation, it’s an open and transparent consultation and we will be taking full account of the response we get from the public on those sites.”
He added other sites could still be considered.
“It is a genuine consultation so if members of the public or other statutory bodies come forward with suggestions which appear to be better than the ones we’ve got we will seriously consider those – if we’re not going to do that it’s not a proper public consultation,” he said.
One councillor sparked complaints last year after raising concerns over social media threats against the potential tenants of the sites.
UKIP Councillor Jane Bramley said she was highlighting posts which warned of firebombs, stoning and bottling.
Her comments attracted attention from Travellers’ Rights groups and Government ministers, however, UKIP leaders later decided to take no further action.
Consultation on the site was initially delayed by the December general election, but has been further pushed back until the call-in is resolved on Tuesday, January 14.
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