West Meadows residents welcome chance to buy Ipswich travellers’ site

West Meadows is expected to be sold to a consortium of current residents. Picture: ARCHANT

West Meadows is expected to be sold to a consortium of current residents. Picture: ARCHANT

Residents of the only permanent travellers’ site in Suffolk have welcomed the opportunity to buy the freehold of their land they live on.

Suffolk county council wants to sell the site, which has 41 pitches, and its cabinet has agreed that the current residents should be the preferred bidder in the process.

The proposal got unanimous backing at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting – and was also welcomed by opposition leader Sandra Gage who said it was much better than the proposal that was originally due to be discussed last month but was pulled from the agenda to allow talks to take place with residents.

Residents of West Meadow were at the meeting and one of them, Stacy Humphry, said most people were now optimistic about the prospects for the site.

He said: “We have put a lot of work together on this proposal and the community is determined to try to prepare a bid that will be acceptable to take over the site.

“It has certainly brought people together and we think we can work on this to make it all work for us.

“I think we are all very pleased that the council says it wants to give us the chance to come up with a bid but there is still quite a lot of work that we have to do on this.”

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The council’s cabinet backed selling it to a community group formed by current residents because there were fears if it was offered on the open market it could have been sold to travellers’ families from some distance away who would not have had the best interests of the current residents at heart.

The council has decided to sell the site because it has had to spend £1.5m on West Meadows over the last 10 years – and it operates the site at a loss.

It is currently managed by Norfolk County Council under an agreement with Suffolk which is due to expire next March.

Suffolk County Council is hoping to complete the sale by the time the management agreement expires next year.

Cabinet member for public health Tony Goldson told the cabinet there had been extensive discussions with residents to try to ensure that there was backing for the proposed sale of the site.

And opposition leader Sandra Gage said she felt much better over the proposed sale now that the residents had been consulted than when it was originally proposed before any consultation.