MORE than 20 new traveller pitches could be created in Wrexham.
Wrexham Council is proposing to identify land for 15 additional socially rented pitches, six private pitches, a basic stopping place for gipsies and travellers who are travelling to, or passing through the county, as well as upgrading the existing traveller site on Ruthin Road by 2018.
It comes after 22 unauthorised encampments were set up in the county borough in the last three years.
In August last year a group of travellers set up an unauthorised camp at Alyn Waters Country Park in Llay, staying there for 11 days.
It caused anger among the local community after damage was caused to football pitches as well as other parts of the country park.
The travellers left after they were issued with a notice by Wrexham Council to leave the site within 24 hours, which was granted by Wrexham magistrates.
However, they then pitched up outside Pentre Maelor Community Centre where they had to be moved on once again.
It is hoped the new facilities will prevent similar encampments from being set up.
The proposals are also being put forward to meet the Housing Act 2004 and Welsh Government Planning Policy Wales requirements to assess the accommodation needs of gipsies and travellers.
According to a report by Wrexham Council’s lead member for housing and planning, Mark Pritchard, creating 15 socially rented pitches could cost up to £2.5m based on a previous estimate to provide a similar new site at Ruthin Road.
The council is hoping to receive funding towards that amount from the Welsh Government.
Of the existing 15 pitches at Ruthin Road, four already meet Welsh Government guidance.
But the cost of upgrading the remaining pitches is estimated at £550,000 and would reduce their number from eleven to five.
The cost would include the demolition of all existing amenity blocks and the construction of five new ones.
In his report Cllr Pritchard said: “Notwithstanding the requirement for 21 additional plots identified within the new assessment, members also need to consider the appropriateness of the existing site at Ruthin Road in the context of the Local Development Plan examination comments.
“A stopping place would help to prevent future unauthorised encampments by enabling the council to move the encampment to a more appropriate site where their presence has less impact on the amenity of local residents, businesses or landowners and provides the occupants with a site where welfare needs can be addressed.
“The majority of unauthorised encampments are of short duration, as families stop off on their way through the county or visiting family.
“Unauthorised encampments can be complicated to manage and the action taken will differ depending on the land ownership, location, intended length of stay, reason for the encampment, impact on the local community and behaviour of the occupiers.”
He added: “As matters concerning the gipsy and traveller community can be contentious it is also proposed that a communication strategy is developed to consult with local residents and businesses once preferred permanent sites/stopping place locations have been identified.”
However, Llay councillor Terry Boland has questioned if the measures will prevent unauthorised camps.
“Hopefully this will prevent that but if people are travelling around the country how will they know where they are?” he said.
“I think you’re not going to stop it in the local community unless you put in proper security measures. If they want to go somewhere then they will go there, it’s not that clear cut.
“I still think Alyn Waters should be looked at again as the security has got to be improved.”
But Cllr Boland said he acknowledged the travelling community needed somewhere to stay.
“It has to be somewhere they are happy to go and where local residents are happy for them to go,” he said.
One community leader who has welcomed the proposals is Abenbury Community Council chairman Ray Squire, who lives on the Pentre Maelor estate.
He said: “The way I look at it is if those people had somewhere to go they wouldn’t have come here and you wouldn’t have had the situation in Llay.
“We had them at the back of the community centre and the mess they left was terrible.
“What you need is a transit camp and they need more permanent pitches on Ruthin Road. My brother, Robert Squire, set that up when he was councillor for Coedpoeth and at the time people gave him so much aggro.
“But the point is, once they set that up they had no more problems in that area.”
The proposals are due to go before members of Wrexham Council’s executive board on Tuesday.