A new home for Christmas? – Mellishaw Traveller site residents celebrate Government-funded refurbishment
Traveller residents of a public authority site in Lancs have hit the jackpot after their council was recently awarded nearly £1million for a complete refurbishment of their home.
Lancaster City Council will use the money to rebuild Mellishaw Traveller site, home to nearly 90 men, women and children, including building new day rooms, putting in new drainage, new electrical grids and building an improved amenity area for the kids to play on.
Speaking to the Travellers’ Times, Mellishaw residents Anne Marie and Krissie said that they were currently temporarily re-housed by the council and looking forward to returning to their new homes when the building work had finished.
“We should hopefully be returning home by Christmas or the new year,” says Ann Marie and Krissie.
“It’s a lot of work, they are starting from scratch and rebuilding the whole site so it will be like its brand new,” they added. “It needed to be done the conditions on the site were terrible.”
“When we return, we are going to get new sheds (day rooms), proper drainage and new electrics so that we can choose our own supplier.”
Ann Marie and Krissie were also keen to make sure that everyone who supported them was recognised. “We want to give a big thumbs up and a thank you to the council and to (a local charity) the Morecambe Bay Poverty and Truth Commission, who have been with us through the last couple of years making sure we get our voices heard.”
A spokesperson from the Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission said: “It was a great privilege for us when Anne-Marie and Krissie were willing to trust with us in a new initiative that is a Poverty Truth Commission. In it we aim to facilitate deep and respectful friendships and conversation between people with experience of living on the margins of society and those with responsibility for social provision. It was deeply moving to become involved with them in the troubling uncertainty around the Mellishaw site, and then together with new friends from the local health service, the local council, the university and other participants, to see just what can be achieved through genuinely caring participation and collaboration. The tears, hugs and joy together when Lancaster District Council passed the vote to purchase, and subsequently raise the cash for the refurbishment is a memory we all treasure! Much appreciation for the journey they shared with us, our friends at Mellishaw, and all joy for the future.”
WATCH. Ann Marie and Krissie are now volunteer commissioners for the Morecambe Bay Poverty and Truth Commission. In this MBPTC video they talk about why they got involved:
The money to refurbish Mellishaw has come from the Government’s Department of Levelling Up, Communities and Housing and is the highest award of the £10million given to nine councils across England for improving their existing Traveller sites or building new ones. The money is also ‘ring-fenced’, meaning that councils can only spend it on Traveller sites.
A spokesperson Lancaster City Council confirmed that they had received £960,000 from the Government for the sole use of refurbishing Mellishaw Traveller site.
Lancaster City Councillor Caroline Jackson, deputy leader and cabinet member with special responsibility for housing, said that she was delighted that the bid to the Government for the money had been successful.
“It will allow us to make some much-needed improvements to the Mellishaw site and provide improved facilities for our residents,” said Cllr Jackson.
Sources close to the rebuild told the Travellers' Times that the work could be finished by the new year - but much depended on the condition of the ground as the new foundations where dug.
This is a major turnaround for the residents of the once run-down Mellishaw Traveller site, which was put up for sale in a dilapidated condition three years ago by its Lancashire County Council owners.
After fears that the site would be brought by private developers and the Traveller residents turfed-off to make way for houses – and following a campaign by residents, local activists and Green Party councillors and the Morecambe Bay Truth and Poverty Commission, Lancaster City County Council stepped in at the last minute and took over responsibility for running the site from the County Council.
Lancaster City Council have been brilliant,” said Ann Marie and Krissie. “People from the council like Caroline Jackson and Suzanne Lodge have really supported us.”
Mike Doherty/TT News
(Lead photograph: Children from the Mellishaw Traveller site celebrate © Patrice Van Cleemput)