PLANS to create more than 20 new traveller pitches in Wrexham have been backed – but the council gave no clue as to where they might be placed.
The proposals were endorsed at a meeting of Wrexham Council’s executive board and the authority is to now try and identify potential 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.
But the council’s lead member for housing and planning, Mark Pritchard said he would not answer questions on possible sites for the new pitches.
The move 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, where they stayed 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.
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 11 to five.
Cllr Pritchard said it was hoped funding could be obtained from the Welsh Government, but said he would not answer questions on which sites were being mooted for the new facilities. But Bronington councillor Rodney Skelland said he believed there were already too many traveller sites within the region.
“I’m always bemused when you look at gipsy and traveller sites as you don’t take into account others within the area such as in Oswestry,” he said.
“I know there’s a border but I don’t understand the thinking in having so many sites so close together.”
Cllr Pritchard said: “All we can cater for is gipsies and travellers within Wrexham and within Wales.”
However Cllr Skelland continued to press him on the matter.
He said: “It does need to be identified that we have three sites close together.
There’s a considerable amount of catering for gipsy sites in a small area.”
And Bryn Cefn councillor Barbara Roxburgh said: “In Southsea and Bryn Cefn area we have three sites. One is illegal, one is questionable and one is a permanent site.”
Cllr Pritchard said: “We have a legal and statutory duty to do a needs assessment which we’ve done in Wrexham. We as an authority are duty bound to our indigenous gipsies and travellers within the borough.”
The proposals were unanimously approved by members of the executive board.