Llandegai Traveller site residents welcome their Council’s commitment to rebuild and refurbish
Gypsies and Travellers living on a “practically derelict” public site in Bangor, North Wales, have been told the good news that Gwynedd Council will start refurbishment of their homes, following a meeting between the Welsh Government, the council and site residents.
The site, which is in an industrial area on the outskirts of Bangor and is partially closed off from disused wasteland by huge concrete blocks - dubbed the “Berlin Wall” by the residents – is overcrowded and a health and safety hazard, they say.
The residents told The Traveller’s Times that “officials from the Welsh Government” visited the site with Gwynedd Council last week to discuss the site, but that whilst the Welsh Government officials appeared “sympathetic”, they were worried that Gwynedd Council were “dragging their heels.”
A Gwynnedd Councillor, Christopher O’Neal, who is supporting the site residents, even lodged an official complaint to Gwynedd Council about the state of the site.
Cllr O’Neal told the Travellers’ Times that he was supporting the Travellers because no one else would, despite them being council-tax paying residents of the council.
“I have been working with the families on the Llandegai travellers site, my role here was to support them in the issues that they have had on the site ranging from litter disposal right through to eviction notices,” he said.
The Travellers’ Times contacted Gwynedd Council, who were keen to allay the residents’ concerns.
A Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “Maintenance work takes place on the site on a regular basis, with expenditure increased in the past year.”
“On Tuesday, 12 April 2016, Welsh Government officials visited the site upon the request of Gwynedd Council to start discussion with the Gypsies and Travellers regarding applying for funding from Welsh Government.”
“All parties present agreed that Gwynedd Council would aim to apply for funding to extend and refurbish the site during 2017/18. If the application were successful then the Council would aim to commence work during 2018 and there would be discussion around the site development."
In Wales, the Welsh central government – or Welsh Assembly - has a fund entirely devoted to building new Traveller sites and re-furbishing old ones. Welsh councils can apply to the fund for money to use for that purpose.
This compares favourably with England, which although it currently has a Traveller site funding pot administered by the Homes and Communities Agency – there are no plans in the latest HCA 2018 – 2021 prospectus for funding specifically for Traveller sites.
The Welsh Government has also refused to implement the controversial new definition change and planning rules for Gypsies and Travellers brought in last summer by Parliament.
Tony Riley, who acts as spokesperson for the Llandegai Traveller site residents, told The Travellers’ Times that the residents “welcomed” the news from the Council.
“They government representatives spoke to the council officers in front of us. They said the work needs doing, you should apply for the money as soon as possible,” Tony Riley said.
“It’s a desperate situation here. The site is practically derelict, plots are doubled up, and it’s affecting all our health.”
Tony Riley also said that the residents were looking to set up a tenants association “to strengthen their arm” and give them a say in how the site was going to be developed.