Traveller families await decision on site

The site runs close to the railway line in Streethouse.
The site runs close to the railway line in Streethouse.

Two families from the traveller community will find out next week whether or not they can stay on land close to a railway line near Featherstone.

Patrick Doherty, Helen Connors, Andrew Buck and Donna Doherty, who have 11 children between them, have lived on Victoria Meadow in Streethouse for two years.

The travellers have applied for retrospective planning permission for the greenbelt land to be officially recognised as a site they can use.

Council officers, who are under pressure to find more space to accommodate Wakefield's growing gypsy and traveller population, have recommended the plans be approved.

Land at Heath Common, where both families used to live, is currently the district's only official site for the community.

But Featherstone ward councillors Graham Isherwood and Richard Taylor, who will speak at a meeting next week when the matter will be decided, have objected to the plans.

Coun Taylor said that while more space for travellers was needed to stop illegal encampments, the Streethouse site was "completely the wrong place for it".

He said: "I'm just concerned that we could be setting a precedent by approving this.

"It's about time Wakefield had its own place for travellers besides the site we have at Heath Common.

"We do need another site desperately to stop them putting up all over the place. We had a terrible time of it this summer, around Featherstone particularly."

A report going before Wakefield's most senior councillors next week says that the district now needs to provide 65 permanent travellers pitches over the next five years.

The land in Streethouse is one of 18 sites where members of the community currently live without authorisation.

A report on the application suggests that planning permission is given to the families for a period of five years, despite acknowledging that it would "harm" the greenbelt land.

Describing the families' background, the report says: "The applicants have led a nomadic habit of life for most of their lives.

"They work mostly in Yorkshire and have been stopping on fields, and waste ground around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield for many years. They have been using the application site for the last two years since buying it.

"But they still travel for work."