Dudley Council abandons plans for Coseley traveller site

Dudley Council has axed proposals for a temporary travellers' site in Coseley after a review found the plans were 'inadequate'.

The Labour-controlled local authority says no procedures had been put in place for how the site would be run, claiming they had been left in an "intolerable mess" by the Conservatives.

The Tories had identified the site last year when they were in power, but were ousted by the Labour party in September before it could be finalised.

A field off Budden Road was intended to serve as a temporary site in time for the 2019 travellers' season while plans were drawn up to identify a permanent site elsewhere in the borough.

But council leader Qadar Zada told Black Country Radio the Conservatives' failure to come up with a long-term solution had left him suspicious that the actual intention all along was for Budden Road to become the permanent site.

He said: "The challenge with the Budden Road site was obviously the fact that it was a temporary site - but it would have been more convincing to me if I had some documentation that said 'here is the work that we've done around a potential permanent site'.

"That work, quite frankly, doesn't exist.

"So, in my view, it was either that the work doesn't exist and it was going to have happened sometime in the future, or the Budden Road site was a permanent site in disguise.

"If that is the case, of course we (the council) seem to have misled a whole lot of people that thought it was going to be a temporary site."

It's the latest twist in a long-running saga over the lack of a travellers' site in the borough, which is needed so that laws around illegal traveller encampments, which have become a more regular occurrence in recent years, can be more efficiently enforced.

The lack of such a site means that, when travellers move on to land illegally, the council has to go through a costly legal process via police and the courts in order to evict them, which can take several days and result in a lengthy clean-up operation afterwards.

Providing a dedicated travellers' site within the borough would automatically give the council powers to immediately move travellers on from an illegal camp to the dedicated site saving time, money and minimising disruption to the public.

It's thought the council currently spends around £150,000 a year on clean-ups and legal fees dealing with illegal encampments.

Cllr Zada added: "The issue around the Budden Road site is we would have probably got about 12 months' usage out of it at a cost of £300,000.

"I can't justify that that is good value for money."

The news has been welcomed by residents, with Coseley East Councillor Susan Ridney saying she was delighted by the u-turn.

Locals had voiced their displeasure at the original plans, with some claiming Coseley's proximity to Wolverhampton - and the fact that it has a WV postcode - means it is looked down on by council bosses keen to protect the south of the borough.

Labour says it will now look to identify an alternative permanent site.

In the meantime, the authority has outlined a range of measures to stem the problem of illegal encampments, including preventing access to parks and fields in the borough and having dedicated enforcement officers ready to respond immediately, including outside of normal working hours, when incursions often occur.

It also plans to seek a borough-wide injunction against travellers to bolster its powers.

No timescale has been given for the review of the plans, while the Conservatives have vowed to push forward the Budden Road site if it regains control of the council in May’s local elections.


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