TWO borough councillors say they are “fuming” after travellers were moved into their ward without their knowledge.
Mike McCusker and Kenny Spain claim they were not told the 30 caravans were being moved from an illegal but “accepted encampment” in Shellway Road to a lorry park on Oil Sites Road in their Westminster ward, until after the decision was taken. They fear it could incite racial tension.
But borough council leader Justin Madders said they were both told of the move, which had to happen quickly because of legal threats from local businesses.
Cllr Madders explained: “It was a question of acting as quickly as possible because of the danger of legal action from people with properties adjacent to the camp.
“Because of flooding in Shellway Road, the caravans had been moving further down the road and blocking access for the businesses.
“There were not many sites to put them. But the travellers have been told if there’s any misbehaviour, they will be moved off.
“We were talking to the police about this before we acted. We told the two councillors before the move happened.”
The travellers moved on Thursday to a lorry yard by the cement works opposite the boat museum.
Cllr McCusker said: “The Stanney councillors were told about the move, but the lorry yard is in Westminster. Cllr Spain and I were not told until after the decision had been made. It was a fait accompli.
“I want wheelie bins, chemical toilets and regular police patrols for the site.
“A few years ago there was a fatal attack on a traveller boy, Johnny Delaney. Then-ward councillor Fred Venables agreed that, because of the circumstances of his death and racial tension, the council should never put travellers in Westminster ward again. But it seems any port in a storm.”
Cllr Spain said: “Cllr McCusker and I were not informed about this at the time. We are the councillors responsible for the lorry park. I cannot understand why the council didn’t involve us.
“Westminster people have also been ignored and disregarded over this.”
Tony Mousdale, the council’s head of housing (landlord and strategy), said: “Neighbouring businesses have been informed of the move and the police will be working closely with us and the travellers to ensure the site is kept safe and clean, and to make sure relations between the settled community and the travellers remain amicable.
“Travellers using the site will be required to sign up to our Good Neighbour Code and the situation will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.”
The land provided in Oil Sites Road is not a permanent site. The council’s long-term aspiration is to see the lorry park site developed but in the current economic climate marketing of the site is being delayed.