Travellers’ site plan for York council’s city centre HQ

8 Oct 2014 @ 3.00 pm
| News, Politics

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Planning pair: Cllr Mark Warters and Matthew Laverack show off their plans outside West Offices on Station Road
A travellers site could be created in front of West Offices, the plush new HQ of City Of York Council.

Part of the car park would be transformed into a site for travellers and gypsies, complete with three caravan pitches, under plans lodged with the authority.

The man behind the idea is Mark Warters, the independent councillor for Osbaldwick. He submitted the planning application – along with the £385 fee – to the council on October 1.

York architect Matthew Laverack drew up the plans and helped put the application together. The disabled parking bays, to be “relocated elsewhere”, would become three travellers’ pitches – making better use of a “brownfield site that is not used to its full potential” the plans state.

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The parking bays which could be turned into three travellers’ pitches, and the plans for the site. Click to see a bigger image

Council leaders and directors could supervise the site during the day, and the users of the site could “reciprocate by acting as ‘caretakers’ of the site after business hours”, the design and access statement goes on.

Meanwhile, the grassed area under the trees “lends itself to grazing by livestock. Ponies can be tethered to tree trunks with a limited rope.”

By approving the plans, it would help address the shortfall of gypsy and traveller caravan pitches in York and “allow the local authority and the Travellers Trust to demonstrate that such sites make a positive contribution to any area in which they are sited.

“This development can help allay concerns expressed by neighbouring communities faced with such proposals in their local areas.”

So far council planners have not responded to Cllr Warters’ proposals, although its stated aim is to either register an application or ask for more information within three days.

A man with a plan

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Mark and Matthew outside the council HQ gates

From the plan

  “York council has highlighted the desperate need for more gypsy/ traveller pitches and the need for the general public to be far more welcoming to this ethnic group. This proposal makes a positive contribution to those aims”

  “Experience of existing sites on the fringes of the city have exposed challenging problems of site management. This would not be the case with this proposal because the site and occupants would be under the direct supervision and control of the City of York Council leader, the chief executive and other directors”

  “Any overspill parking requirements can be accommodated just outside the entrance gates immediately opposite the five star Cedar Court Grand Hotel”

  “Heating and cooking facilities will be fully sustainable using biomass (open fires)”

  “The occupants, by virtue of their livestock, will be able to provide an endless supply of reliably sourced bio-degradable animal manure for use by York council’s parks and gardens teams”

A gypsy and travellers site in Cllr Warters’ Osbaldwick ward is being expanded from 12 to 18 pitches under controversial plans.

This is what gave him the idea for the West Offices plan.

“Every time they were extolling the virtues of these gypsy sites and proposing the expansion of the Osbaldwick site, I said if the council considers these sites to be good neighbours, perhaps the council ought to be including a site within one of its own areas.

“If they can waste £673,500 of public money putting six extra pitches on the Osbaldwick site, which is like the Wild West, totally out of control, then we’ll give them a taste of their own medicine.”

He said there had been problems with the horses from the Osbaldwick travellers’ site.

But he said his plans for West Offices are “a wonderful example of social inclusion and I expect council leaders to fully endorse this proposal”.

Council leader James Alexander said: “If Cllr Warters wants to pay £385 to the tax payer for a publicity stunt, he’s very welcome.”

‘A silly way to go about it’

Christine Shepherd of the York Travellers Trust dismissed Cllr Warters’ plan.

“He’s being very controversial to try to get people’s hackles up. I think it’s a silly way to go about it,” she said.

“The local authority is trying desperately hard to accommodate everybody. We at the York Travellers Trust have been working really closely with the council to look at potential sites in the future which aren’t going to upset people.

“Travellers are part of the York community and have been for many, many years. They are just as entitled to housing as any other individual.”