My column in the Morley Observer

There can be little doubt that the big issue people in Morley have been talking about over the last fortnight is the proposed travellers’ site off Valley Road. As well as all the letters and emails and phone calls to my office, over a thousand people have visited the Facebook page set up to show people how to register their views. And of course, hundreds turned up to the public meeting in the town hall last week too. When I heard the news about the proposal, I visited the site with Cllr Neil Dawson, to see for myself exactly where the proposed site was.

This plan was put forward by a private developer out of the blue – without any consultation with Leeds City Councillors or local residents. I fully understand local people’s anger and frustration with the developer’s proposal.

I’ve been very clear from the beginning that it is important to have adequate provision for travellers’ sites across the city, as this prevents illegal encampments. But sites must be in the right place for the gypsy and traveller community and for local residents. A former oil refinery, with poor access, next to a busy train station, is clearly the wrong place for a travellers’ site.

Many have pointed out to me that whilst there is a need for increased provision for travellers in the city, there is already an existing local travellers’ site close by in Cottingley Springs, whereas in other parts of Leeds there is no provision at all.  As one couple wrote to me, surely it’s important for all concerned to have sites in different parts of the city, not just in the south?

Others have highlighted the existing pressure on services in our area – from school places to GP surgeries – and the need to ensure that any new development, of any kind, needs to bring with it the necessary infrastructure support.

And people’s concerns – especially those living close by – have understandably been exacerbated by the developer himself, who has commenced work at the site before planning permission, of any kind, has been granted. Local Cllr, Neil Dawson informed me that he was meeting urgently with planning officers about this. And last week the local authority issued a temporary stop notice to prevent further work continuing before the planning application has been considered.

As with all local planning decisions, this decision is one for local Councillors and not for Parliament which is why I’ve spoken to local Councillors about it.

But I will, of course, do everything I can to ensure that any residents who contact me have their concerns and worries properly heard during the planning process.  I have already written to Leeds’ Director of City Development, Martin Farrington, on behalf of all of those who have contacted me and will happily do so for any others who contact me via my office in Morley.

Residents shouldn’t hesitate to contact me (on this or any other issue) either via my office in Morley – 0113 253 9466 or email me: ed@edballs.com.

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Posted May 21st, 2014 by Ed