Campaigners dismayed at loss of Royal Welsh Show temporary Traveller site
“I was just told there is no funding this year, but they didn’t suggest anywhere else we could go – so what is going to happen if we can’t go on the field where we would normally go?"
The removal of funding for the temporary Gypsy and Travellers site for visitors to the Royal Welsh Show has dismayed The Welsh Coalition campaigning against the new powers in the new Police Act, which potentially criminalise 'unauthorised camps'.
The decision was made by Powys Council over two years ago, but with the Royal Welsh Show closed in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, this only came to light earlier this year.
The temporary stopping site at the ‘Ysgiog’ was given planning permission in 2013 and the site was jointly funded by Powys Council and the Royal Welsh Show; families would pay a fee for their stay and facilities such as water, lighting, porta-loos and tracking were provided.
The ‘Ysgiog’ field is a stopping place long used by Gypsies and Travellers who previously paid the local farmer direct, travelling from across Wales and the UK to stay at the annual three-day Royal Welsh Show.
“I have been travelling to the Royal Welsh Show since I was a boy,” says Henry Price of Cardiff.
“This has come as a shock, it’s not a welcoming thing, I really do think it has come at the worst time on top of these new police powers,” added Henry Price.
“The Royal Welsh Show means a lot to us, it’s an important aspect of our culture to us, it’s part of how we keep the culture going. We meet people we haven’t seen for years; we all need to be proud of who we are and where we come from and its unfair with no warning given to the families who are going to arrive. Appleby, Stow – they have all continued so why not the Royal Welsh?”
Mr Price says he contacted the council to ask for advice on where he and his family can stay “I was just told there is no funding this year, but they didn’t suggest anywhere else we could go – so what is going to happen if we can’t go on the field where we would normally go?”
The Welsh Coalition including organisations Gypsies and Travellers Wales, Travelling Ahead, BASW Cymru, Race Alliance Wales and Tai Pawb wrote to the council with their concerns.
Trudy Aspinwall from the Travelling Ahead Advice and Advocacy Service says: “The temporary stopping site at the Ysgiog is the only one of its kind in Wales and was held up as a positive example of a local authority supporting the nomadic way of life.
In Wales there is a legal duty on councils to assess and meet the need for permanent and temporary accommodation and in our view the council have a legal duty to provide these kind of sites so that Gypsies and Travellers can travel to and stay on suitable land with facilities - with the new Police Act now law in Wales it is even more important that local authorities are providing transit or temporary sites, otherwise families have no legal place to site their trailers while visiting the show or other cultural events.”
Campaigners say the decision was taken without any consultation and no impact assessment has been made public; adding that Powys council’s own Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment in 2021 states that ‘the granting of planning permission for a temporary transit site to 2023 to address historic numbers of unauthorised caravans at the Royal Welsh Show has had a significant impact of the number of unauthorised caravans recorded in Powys’.
“We believe families have been left high and dry through the removal of this funding with no thought to how this is going to affect families looking forward to travelling to the Royal Welsh for the first time in two years, people have been given no warning and no options,” said a spokesperson for the Welsh Coalition.
“Instead of finding a safe, legal stopping site with good facilities for families arriving with their trailers they are now going to be treated as ‘unauthorised encampments’, they added.
“This just isn’t acceptable given the Welsh commitment to supporting the nomadic way of life and we urge the Council, the Police and the Royal Welsh Show to work together with families to ensure that this important event can still be attended by Gypsy and Traveller families from Wales and beyond”
Mike Doherty and Trudy Aspinwall/TT News
(Images screenshotted from the Powys Council Atchin Tan Ysgiog Facebook page. Lead photograph: The Atchin Tan Ysgiog or temporary stopping place for Gypsies and Travellers, a few miles down the road from the Royal Welsh Sow - open for business in a previous year )