UPDATED: Cottingley Springs traveller site plan blocked

Cottingley Springs, the first official site for travellers, was built by Leeds City Council in 1969.
Cottingley Springs, the first official site for travellers, was built by Leeds City Council in 1969.
  • The Secretary of State agrees that the proposed development is inappropriate and that it is, by definition, harmful to the green belt and that such harm attracts substantial weight.
  • The Secretary of State shares the Inspector’s view that although the area of Green Belt separating the outskirts of Leeds and Gildersome is limited in extent, the proposal would reduce the distance between existing development, undermining the purposes of checking the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas and preventing neighbouring towns from merging into one another.
  • The Secretary of State finds that the proposal would result in the permanent loss of openness.
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Cottingley Springs traveller site will not be expanded, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has ruled.

The decision brings to a close a costly three year battle over the issue, which was eventually placed under government jurisdiction.

This is a victory for the local community and for the travelling community, who joined us in saying that the expanding of the site wasn’t appropriate.

Coun Robert Finnigan

Leeds City Council’s plans to increase the breadth of the site by 12 pitches and accommodate more travellers met with a huge backlash when they were announced in 2012 but planning permission was granted nonetheless.

An inquiry into the decision was announced by Mr Pickles in February 2014 and the legal wrangling, believed to have cost the council in excess of £10,000, has since continued.

Morley Borough Independent leader Robert Finnigan, whose party staunchly opposed the proposals, claimed that the original proposals to assign more travellers to Morley had been politically motivated and that council tax payers’ money had been “disgracefully” wasted as a result.

He said: “This is a victory for the local community and for the travelling community, who joined us in saying that the expanding of the site wasn’t appropriate.

“We put forward 35 sites across Leeds that were more appropriate, yet the council spent thousands of pounds trying to claim that there were no alternatives and they have been left exposed.

“Huge questions now need to be asked of Leeds City Council and people need to consider their positions.”

Coun Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods said: “Today’s decision is extremely disappointing, particularly in light of the scope and level of work we’ve put into finding a suitable site.

“Our work with the travelling community has been applauded as national best practice. While we’re not afraid of a challenge, decisions like this make our work needlessly harder.”