Telford & Wrekin Council gave themselves permission to use prime development land in Snedshill as a temporary traveller transit site earlier this month.
The site next to Kiyokuni is currently earmarked for high quality office and technology buildings but the council has decided that it will be better used as a transit camp for travellers. In fact, they were so certain that members of the planning committee would agree that they spent a quarter of a million pounds erecting a metal fence around the site in preparation for it being used as a traveller site.
There was mass opposition to the proposal from residents and businesses but councillors approved it anyway after listening to a comprehensive sales pitch from officers. Councillors were booed and jeered as they ignored public opinion and dismissed the list of material objections that had been submitted.
The council claims that building a temporary transit site that can only be used for a month will stop illegal traveller camps such as the ones that blighted the borough for the last couple of months, all care of the same group of travellers.
The council is either incredibly naive or incredibly stupid if they really think that it will stop illegal camping rather than encourage it while the police in Telford refuse to use the powers they have to move on illegal traveller camps.
The Central Park and Castle Trading Estate area already suffer from problems with illegal traveller camps and locating a transit camp off the access road for Kiyokuni – a road that has been used for illegal camps by travellers several times in the last few years – is nonsensical. The land over the road from Kiyokuni that is up for sale as development land will be virtually worthless while a traveller camp is located yards away.
Holyhead Road is a busy road and between 135 an 165 vehicle movements are expected from an 11 pitch traveller camp (average of between 9 and 11 vehicle movements per pitch) which, along with the HGVs and other vehicles accessing Kiyokuni, will cause traffic issues at the site. The site is next to heavy industry, busy main roads and the motorway which will result in excess noise for the travellers and national guidelines on traveller camps say that this is an inappropriate location for a camp.
There were a number of misleading statements and out of date reports used in the planning application. The claim in the Design & Access Statement that the site is surrounded by wooded areas of vacant land that contain no structures is incorrect – it is bordered on two sides by busy roads and on another the Kiyokuni factory. The consultation process described in the Design & Access Statement suggests that the council consulted businesses in Stafford Park and neighbouring Kiyokuni but Kiyokuni’s comments on the application suggest the “consultation” was cursory at best and businesses in Stafford Park don’t appear to have been consulted. The Ground Investigation Report dates to 2001 and doesn’t describe the site as it is today – it paints a picture of a brownfield site littered with derelict buildings. The application form claims that building work or change of use hasn’t started but the council has already started preparing the site and there is no up-to-date contamination assessment included with the application. The application claims that the traveller site will not be visible from a road which is incorrect, it will be visible from the A5 and Holyhead Road. The application claims there are no important biodiversity features at the site which is incorrect – the whole area is a haven for birds of prey.
The Conservative councillors on the committee made what could at best be called a half-hearted attempt at questioning the logic of putting a traveller site at Snedshill but when it came to it they rolled over and let council officers and Labour councillors walk all over them as usual. The opposition to the traveller site has been led by UKIP Telford & Wrekin and it was our members who were in the audience correcting officers who were misleading councillors and who were asked to leave for doing so (they refused).
We intend to keep on fighting this inappropriate decision and press the police in Telford & Wrekin to use their powers to protect local businesses and residents from the expense and inconvenience of illegal traveller camps in the borough.