Labour Cllr Justin Madders accused council of ‘hypocrisy and duplicity’
Documents obtained by the Pioneer show Cheshire West and Chester Council was working with a developer to consider an alternative location for the controversial Gypsy and Traveller site proposed in Ellesmere Port.
The site, which is currently planned to be built on the council’s current depot in Rossfield Road, was fiercely contested by residents and businesses at the time.
However, the site received planning permission last year along with another site in the Winsford area.
Peel Holdings own a significant area of land near the site in question which they have been developing for housing.
Their opposition to the scheme was made known at the time through the planning process although the council has consistently denied there would be any impact on local businesses or housing.
But documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the council had agreed with Peel to look at other potential sites the company might suggest in the town. However, the council says those alternatives were never provided by Peel.
Minutes of a strategic liaison meeting involving council leader Mike Jones and Peel Holdings in May 2012 state that Peel is 'to engage' with senior council officers “to review the potential for other sites in Ellesmere Port to accommodate the proposed Rossmore Industrial Estate travellers’ site”.
Council spokesman Ian Callister said the idea of a review was instigated by Peel, adding: “At that meeting Peel expressed some concerns at the location of the Ellesmere Port site and were told by the authority’s officers that we believed it to be the right site and the reasons for that belief.
“It was Peel that suggested the company may have better alternatives and offered to produce same – but never did.
“If there had been alternatives available, the council would have been deemed irresponsible if they had not have agreed to at least examine them.”
Labour group Cllr Justin Madders accused the council of ‘hypocrisy and duplicity’ when the papers were shown to him.
He said: “All along the council have insisted the area was appropriate for a permanent traveller site despite many people having concerns about its location on an industrial estate. One company even threatened to pull out of the area but still the council pressed on.
“Yet now we learn that all along they were have a conversation with a major landowner. Clearly they were concerned about the impact on their business and the council obviously had sympathy with that view but were saying something very different in public. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.”