Controversial expansion of Heath Common traveller site backed by councillors

Senior councillors have backed a plan to expand Wakefield's biggest publicly-run traveller site to cater for growing demand

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 7:00 am

Heath Common could be extended to 61 permanent pitches, up from its current number of 38. A further six plots set aside for temporary use would be included under the proposals.

The scheme would cost the taxpayer just shy of £6m and is subject to planning permission.

The leader of Wakefield Council, Denise Jeffery, has acknowledged there is opposition to the plan from local residents, but the authority says it is legally obliged to accommodate travelling families.

A view of Heath Common, from the edge of Doncaster Road. The site is the largest public traveller encampment in the Wakefield district.

It's also claimed that expanding Heath Common would cut the rising number of illegal encampments being set up.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning where the issue was discussed, Coun Jeffery said: "I have had a number of letters about this. I hope people appreciate this is something we have to do.

"I know it's difficult for people - they don't want it in their area, but we've been talking about this for sometime and I agree we need to move forward to the next stage in the process."

Councillor Darren Byford, the authority's portfolio holder for regeneration, said residents would get a chance to further express their views when a planning application is submitted.

One hurdle to the expansion is the fact that part of the land is protected by a covenant, which prohibits development.

Coun Byford said the authority would look to "negotiate" over that agreement.

The council said that other options, including building a new site with 23 pitches elsewhere, had been deemed unworkable.

Local Democracy Reporting Service