Gypsy and Traveller sites: Newport protest meeting plans response
- 14 September 2012
- From the section South East Wales
Residents opposed to proposals for new Gypsy and Traveller sites to the east of Newport held a protest meeting to discuss their response.
Newport council has invited views on 11 possible sites across the city, having dropped plans for five other locations.
The meeting on Friday was called by people opposed to four suggested sites in Langstone and Underwood.
Gypsies and Travellers have said that small official family sites were the best way to help their community.
But Conservative councillor Ray Mogford said residents were "horrified" and claim the plans threaten green areas.
Following the local elections which saw Labour retake power in Newport from a Conservative-led administration, a cross-party project team was set up in June to re-examine the issue of Gypsy and Traveller sites.
After a long list of 220 possible locations was considered, consultation was launched on 7 September into a new list of 11 potential sites.
None of the five sites previously identified have been listed, including Yew Tree Cottages at Bettws, which was the subject of a protest march.
Before the meeting, Peter Morgan, who was due to chair the session, said residents did not think that the 28-day consultation period gave them enough time to counter the proposals.
He said people believed the earmarked sites around Langstone and Underwood to be unsuitable for a variety of reasons.
"One site is close to Cadw-designated Roman remains, there are questions of road access, and in one area there is already a serious drainage problem."
Ray Mogford, a Conservative representing Langstone on Newport council, said wherever Gypsy sites went people were very opposed, adding: "It's always a political hot potato."
He said: "There was complete and absolute shock in the community - it's a huge shift to put all these sites in one area.
"A lot of them are greenfield sites - there are a lot of rational reasons why these sites are ill-conceived."
The Welsh government has advised all local authorities to assess the housing needs of Gypsies and Travellers and make provision for sites where needed.
Newport was said to be the Welsh county with the largest number of illegal Gypsy sites.
In 2009, 28 out of 30 caravans in Newport were found to be illegally parked.
Gypsies and Travellers based in Newport told BBC Wales in February that the creation of small official family sites would be the best way to help their community.
Consultants working for the council have recommended that Newport needs 29 permanent pitches for Gypsy and Traveller families and 7 transit pitches.
Public views have been invited on the list of 11 potential sites via Newport council's website, which said that not all of the locations would ultimately be needed.
The consultation documents say the shortlisted sites had been assessed against a full list of criteria including:
- Flood risk areas
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest/conservation areas
- Green wedge / green belt
- Hazards on site
- Existing use (e.g. local amenity, environmental space)
- Proximity to local facilities (health services, schools, shops)
- Vehicular access to site
- Public transport links
- For transit sites, proximity to major roads (A48/A449)
Councillors had visited all sites identified as potentially suitable against the criteria, before agreeing a list for consultation.
Newport council has said that a final list of proposed sites would be drawn up after the consultation period closed on 4 October.