CLEDFORD Hall is again being considered as a transit site for gypsies and travellers as Cheshire East Council deals with a rise in illegal encampments.

Cheshire East Council gained planning permission for a transit site at Cledford Hall, in Middlewich, back in 2015 – but that lapsed last year after no work had begun on the site within three years.

Now, the council has confirmed it is taking another look at opening a transit site at Cledford Hall, having been hit with a recent rise in unauthorised encampments across the borough.

Cllr Arthur Moran, independent member for Nantwich North and West, called for action at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting after a recent illegal encampment at Barony Park in his ward forced leisure facilities on the site to close.

He said: “This is a plea, to be quite honest.

Winsford Guardian:

“This has been an ongoing problem at the park for the last four years and, apart from talking, I have to say that with the former administration we’ve had little action on preventative measures, or in fact, providing a transit site for travellers.

“Can I urge this council to provide a travellers’ transit site within Cheshire East as a matter of urgency?”

In boroughs which have transit sites, police have the power to move gypsies and travellers off illegal encampments as soon as possible.

Any gypsies and travellers that refuse to move from an unauthorised encampment to a transit site have to leave the borough and cannot return for three months.

But CEC does not have a transit site – meaning it requires court orders to force gypsies and travellers to move elsewhere, which is a more costly and time-consuming process.

Cllr Ant Critchley, Labour member for Crewe Central, called on CEC to provide a transit site ‘as a matter of urgency’.

Winsford Guardian:

He said: “Until this is sorted we are failing both the travelling community and also the residents of Cheshire East, who are put out by people who are setting up on public land.

“I fear this will be a long and frustrating summer for a number of residents and a costly one for council coffers in legal costs unless something is done by this council.”

There were fierce objections to the Cledford Hall transit site when it was first announced in 2014 from Middlewich residents and councillors, along with Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton.

Planning permission was granted the following year, but this expired last May, and now the council is conducting a feasibility study to see if the plans should be revived.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, told cabinet on Tuesday: “We do need to address the issue of transit sites.

Winsford Guardian:

“We must provide transit sites because if there aren’t transit sites available then it is very difficult to object to people parking and setting up sites elsewhere.”

Cllr Mick Warren, cabinet member for communities, added that the issue is ‘on my top priority list’ in light of the recent issues at Barony Park.

A spokesman at CEC said: “CEC continues to explore the options for a permanent gypsy and traveller transit site.

“We are in the process of undertaking a feasibility study at Cledford Hall and will establish the cost of development.

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“While this work is carried out, we are considering other mechanisms to deal with the increase in unauthorised encampments.”