Letter to City Councillors regarding Gypsy and Traveller Sites

Sent by email

23 January 2013

Dear Councillor

Authorised Gypsy and Traveller Sites

As the Member of Parliament for Leicester West, my job is first and foremost to represent the views of my constituents and to ensure these are listened to and acted upon.

Since my election in May 2010, I have worked very closely with my Councillor colleagues in Beaumont Leys and Abbey wards to press for a solution to the long standing and difficult issue of unauthorised gypsy and traveller sites, which are a major concern for many of my constituents.

When Leicester changed to the new structure of a City Mayor, the ward Councillors and I all stressed that tackling this issue should be a top priority for the new administration. Even before the consultation process about potential new sites began, we argued that this was a city-wide problem which required a city-wide solution. We have since worked extremely hard to ensure the views of local residents have been strongly represented to the City Mayor, Council Officers, and the Scrutiny Commission.

A substantial number of my constituents firmly believe that the Council’s process for selecting potential sites was flawed and that additional issues should have been factored into the process, including the proximity between sites and existing levels of public concern about them. Many of my constituents also believe more should have been done in the selection process to assess the impact these sites will have on the local environment, economy and public services. As well as considering factors such as biodiversity, size, access, local facilities, screening and flood risk, local residents fear the impact the proposed sites could have on the value of their properties, community relations and antisocial behaviour.

I am pleased that some elements of the Council’s original proposal have been changed, including dropping plans for a site on Beaumont Way and having smaller sites with fewer pitches. I also welcome the review that has been announced into the work of the Multi Agency Traveller Unit.

However, even with these changes, the Council’s current proposals for sites at Greengate Lane and Red Hill Way continue to raise a number of serious questions, problems and concerns. Above all, the fact that all of the proposed sites are in the same part of the City is considered to be very unfair by a substantial number of local residents. Furthermore, many of my constituents have long said that the site on Greengate Lane was becoming an official site by stealth and – despite assurances to the contrary – this view is perceived to have been vindicated.

It is for these reasons that I welcome the fact that Abbey and Beaumont Leys Councillors have called the City Mayor’s decision in to be debated by full Council.

I believe that a solution, incorporating the development of much needed new gypsy and traveller sites, can be achieved. But this will only be possible if a city-wide approach is taken to tackling a city-wide problem, and if local residents’ views are at the heart of the decision making process.

I enclose a copy of the paper I compiled for the Scrutiny Commission which highlights the concerns of my constituents in more detail. I hope it will inform your thinking as you debate the Council’s current decision.

With best wishes,

Liz Kendall MP
Member of Parliament for Leicester West