West Meadows travellers site set to be offered to current residents’ group
Suffolk County Council is set to sell off the 41-pitch West Meadows travellers’ site on the edge of Ipswich to a consortium of current residents.
The county’s cabinet is expected to approve the sale when it meets next week, which should allow the sale to go through before the current management agreement expires at the end of March next year.
West Meadows has been home to travellers since the 1980s and was expanded about 15 years ago. At present 34 of the pitches are occupied and there are 100 residents including 44 children.
Over recent years there have been a number of incidents at the site – the most serious happening last December when two people died from stab injuries. A teenager is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of murder and manslaughter.
Suffolk County Council cabinet member Tony Goldson said the site was being sold because the authority could no longer afford the cost of managing it – running travellers’ sites is not a county council responsibility.
He said that when the proposal to sell the site had first been raised, there had been concerns among some residents that it could have gone to travellers from elsewhere who could have forced them off their pitches.
There had therefore been negotiations with the current residents who had formed a consortium to buy the site. He said: “They have come together and signed a covenant to live together in peace and to keep the site well maintained.”
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Mr Goldson said the authority was aware there were different groups living at the site who did not all get on well together – but said the covenant required them all to work together for the good of the community.
Opposition councillors are concerned that selling the site and removing the independent management – it is currently run by the Norfolk and Suffolk Gypsy Roma Traveller Service (NSGRTS) – could make matters much worse.
North West Ipswich Labour councillor Kathy Bole said she was very concerned about the proposed deal: “There are real tensions on the site and it is very important that everyone living there knows that the covenant treats everyone equally – otherwise there is a danger that one group or another could feel they are running the site and that could be very bad for everyone else.”