Farmers “partly responsible” for traveller site problems


Local farmers are partly to blame for problems created by illegal traveller sites around Wakefield, a senior council officer has suggested.

Ian Garratt, team leader of the city council’s planning enforcement team, said that some farmers were selling land to groups who then set up camps without permission.

A study by the local authority two years ago said that an extra 28 new pitches needed to be set aside for the travelling community in the Wakefield district before 2021.

But speaking at a public meeting on Wednesday, Mr Garratt said that planning permission for several locations had been rejected and the council “hadn’t yet satisfied demand” for the growing numbers of travellers in the area.

As a result, inspectors are increasingly allowing travellers to stay on land they’ve moved onto while they apply for retrospective planning permission.

Mr Garratt said: “More sites need to be found.

“If you read the 2016 Gypsy and Traveller Assessment that the council did, it says that it’s an expanding community.

“There’s pressures from people coming into the district from other towns. Some of that may be for family reasons, some of it’s because there’s a push factor from the other side of the boundary.

“The council has already set out in its plan the number of sites that are needed, but some of these have not been accepted for one reason or another.

“With the deficiency we have it suggests it’s easier (for travellers) to get (retrospective) permission on appeal.”

Over the past year, a number of applications related to traveller sites have caused controversy in Wakefield.

In February it was reported that more than 60 objections had been tabled against a proposal to expand an existing private site in Normanton.

In August, travellers were evicted from playing fields in Stanley after several days.

One parish council clerk told the meeting that she found the sight of blockades around country fields to keep travellers off “a sad situation”.

In response, Mr Garratt said: “I have a lot of empathy with what you’re saying. “There are obvious pressures.

“The local farmers are in part responsible for the situation we’re in.

“There’s some farmers who are actively selling off part of their estates, which as it’s private land we’ve no control over.

“They get paid and they walk away and we get the enforcement issues and we get the complaints from members of the public. There’s no happy balance I’m afraid.”