A COUNCILLOR has pledged to “fight all the way” over controversial plans for a £2m Gypsy and Traveller camp in Ellesmere Port.
Tommy Griffiths said the idea of 15 permanent pitches for caravans on Rushton’s Yard in New Bridge Road, across the M53 from the Stanney and Wolverham estates, was “just terrible”.
Last week the Pioneer revealed the borough has endorsed a bid for a 100% grant for the camp from the Communities and Local Government Department.
Cllr Griffiths (Lab, Stanlow & Wolverham) said: “We have got until November to fight this.
“The council has put in for a £2m grant and won’t know how it goes until then.
“We have to fight this as best we can.
“I’ve had a nightmare with people on the estates coming up to me about this.
“There were 37 sites in Ellesmere Port under consideration at one time, but none of them were suitable, only Rushton’s old scrapyard.
“Local businesses have also been asking why they are paying council rents and rates when we have this.”
When the Pioneer surveyed Stanney and Wolverham residents on Friday, we received a mixed reaction to the camp plan, with roughly one-third of residents for it and the rest strongly opposed.
One factor which concerns many people is whether the new camp will be kept clean.
Speaking at the council’s resources committee earlier this month when the funding bid decision was made, Cllr Peter Shephard (Lab, Rivacre) said some Travellers “don’t help themselves” and the importance of keeping the new camp clean had to be stressed to them.
Last November Cllr Griffiths expressed his shock when a group of Travellers arrived on the Thornton Road playing fields at the bottom of Stanney and refused to move for weeks because two of them were pregnant.
They were eventually forced to move on, leaving behind massive mounds of rubbish.
Mixed reactions to £2m Travellers’ campsite
RESIDENTS of the Stanney and Wolverham estates have given a mixed reaction to plans for a £2m Gypsy and Travellers’ camp nearby.
The borough council has endorsed a bid to the Government for the camp on Rushton’s Yard in New Bridge Road.
Staff and customers at a Stanney business, who didn’t wish to be identified, had major concerns about the scheme, which could receive funding by this November.
One woman said: “We have got the bail hostel here already and now they want to put Gypsies here. The Stanney is just like a dumping ground. Why should we have them?
“And why aren’t the council spending that money on local facilities for our children?”
Another pointed out that Travellers have previously trespassed on sites in the town, left behind huge mounds of trash and gone unpunished, while people like themselves had to pay via the Council Tax for their rubbish to be disposed of.
A young woman said: “It doesn’t matter what we say, the council will just do it.
“We are the first estate you come to if you leave Rushton’s Yard and go through the underpass.”
A shop worker claimed that when a group of Travellers parked illegally on Thornton Road playing field last October and November residents were intimidated and threatened.
Another said it was “one law for Travellers, another for residents” and the proposed camp would just cause “more trouble” for them.
However, a colleague said: “The Travellers won’t bother me. Sometimes people have the wrong impression of them. Some of them are OK.”
But she added: “Why not spend that money on us? The Gypsies haven’t put anything into the local community.”
One woman asked what was wrong with the camp going anywhere else in the Port. “It’s a big area, so why this estate? Why not put it in Rivacre, there’s lots of fields there,” she added.
A friend said: “Travellers come in here and just push push push. We play fair but some of them cause trouble.”
Another woman feared retaliation on the local community following the killing of 15-year-old Traveller Johnny Delaney in Ellesmere Port in May 2003.
And a customer said: “We just don’t want the camp here. We have enough trouble without anything else. I know they have got to go somewhere, but why here?”
Residents in a housing area off Alnwick Drive were also strongly opposed.
One man walking his dog said: “Absolutely not.” An elderly woman said of the plan: “I’m not impressed.”
And a neighbour asked: “Why should we give them anything when they seem to give nothing back? We pay our taxes and car insurance and things like that. They seem to pay nothing.”
However, one young man walking home said: “I say do it. As long as they keep off the playing fields here. My only concern is the rubbish they left behind last time.”
A female Stanney resident who works in the town centre said: “As long as they are not here on the field, I would be alright about them having a permanent site. As long as they are not littering our areas or causing havoc, then OK.”
A middle-aged woman living in Thornton Road said: “The Travellers should pay something towards the cost of the site themselves. I pay towards my little space here, so why give this site to them for free?
“Otherwise I wouldn’t really mind them being there. Better than them being on Thornton Road fields.”
A young woman in Kenilworth Court said: “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. But it’s the mess and rubbish they leave behind that we don’t like.”
What do you think? Write to: Pioneer, 66 Whitby Road, Ellesmere Port CH65 0AA, call 0151 356 2345, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org