Controversy as potential traveller and gypsy site chosen for Whitehaven Cumbria

An area of the Sneckyeat Industrial Estate has been chosen as the potential location for a new traveller and gypsy site. Credit: Google Maps

The choice of land which could be used as a traveller site in Whitehaven has caused controversy in the town.

An area of the Sneckyeat Industrial Estate has been chosen as the potential location.

During a Copeland Borough Council meeting, the Local Plan for 2021-2023 was passed, with the council voting to drop Greenbank from consideration and continue making plans for Sneckyeat as its preferred site.

When announced there were confrontations and disagreements about the decision.

By law the council has to allocate land which can be used as a permanent site by the gypsy and traveller communities in its Local Plan.

At the meeting, residents and town councillors submitted a petition objecting to the site as well as to the previous plans for it to be based at Greenbank.

Locations within the Lake District National Park were excluded from consultations as Copeland mayor Mike Starkie said there was not a need for one in the rural areas.

Their concerns with the location at Sneckyeat are based on its past as a landfill site, the cost of remediation works and its proximity to the current community.

Councillor Gemma Dinsdale raised the point that previously the Sneckyeat site was turned down for use as an allotment site as it was deemed unsafe due to issues with metals under the ground and a build-up of methane gas among other things.

Though supporting the need to find a site Ms Dinsdale said: "I do not see how we can vote on it today.

"Every person deserves to live in a safe place, regardless of their background, regardless of people's opinions of them they deserve to be somewhere safe."

She added that everyone should be able to raise their anxieties because "when they're not allowed to, that is where racism flourishes and that is where it is born and bred."

In response Councillor Joseph Ghayouba said: "I would counter Councillor Dinsdale's points made about the discussions and accusations of racism, I think what would help the situation is toning down the hyperbole a little bit."

The potential costs associated with the gypsy and traveller site are currently said to be unknown, as Mr Starkie said the council was acting as a planning authority and that the value was in its asset register.

Those attending the meeting were told all concerns about the future site would be addressed during the planning process.

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