Search is on again for a gipsy site in Calderdale

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Councillors are once again searching for a permanent site for gipsies, travellers and travelling show people.

When they scoured Calderdale 25-years-ago, they hit on isolated woodland between Sowerby and Luddenden Foot, and went so far as to put in a planning application.

Campaigning for Holmes Road tunnel under the railway to be widened. 'From the left, Coun Adam Wilkinson, Rod Mellorand Molly Bake, from the Sowerby Bridge Ward Forum, and Coun David Draycott.

Campaigning for Holmes Road tunnel under the railway to be widened. 'From the left, Coun Adam Wilkinson, Rod Mellorand Molly Bake, from the Sowerby Bridge Ward Forum, and Coun David Draycott.

But there was a barrage of public opposition and they abandoned the proposal at the last minute, shelving the whole idea.

It has been revived by the need to produce a “Local Plan” for jobs, homes, shops and green spaces. Public consultation is due to begin in October.

The 390-page document requires Calderdale Council take a “more proactive approach” to finding suitable space.

The West Yorkshire Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment says that there are about 40 traveller households in Calderdale.

Additional information from the Showman’s Guild shows there are a further 12 travelling showpeople families, who live on a site in Atlas Mill Road, Brighouse.

The council does not anticipate any private sector sites being set up for gipsies and travelllers but a survey has shown the presence of three unathorised sites which are not perceived to be causing a problem.

The accommodation assessment says there is a need for seven permanent pitches in Calderdale and one transit pitch.

National Planning Policy indicates that sites in the green belt would be inappropriate. Instead they should be easily accessible, close to work and schools and away from areas that flood or where noise and air pollution might be a problem.

Councillor David Hardy (Lib-Dem, Elland), chairman of the council’s economy and environment panel, said a site would have to be found.

“The problem is where and who is going to pay for it - the council has no money in the kitty.

“And even when we do find a site, we will still have to deal with travellers passing through Calderdale. These casual visitors often cause chaos,” he said.

The council had narrowed down its list of possible sites for travellers to just six in 1991.
They were: Huddersfield Road, Elland, Birds Royd Lane, Brighouse, Bootown Road, Halifax, Hollins Mill Lane/Walton Street, Sowerby Bridge and between the Rochdale Canal and the railway in Walsden, Todmorden.
But they put in a planning application for a wooded glen sandwiched between the railway and Stoney Lane, at Ellen Holme, Luddenden Foot, which it was estimated would cost £350,000 to redevelop. 
The National Gipsy Council branded it a ‘gloomy dump’ and the Wood Bottom Action Group was formed to try to overturn the scheme and get the travellers evicted from the site which had been occupied illegally for more than 14 months.
In January 1991, the council withdrew a planning application to make the site permanent.
Access is difficult and the noise from the railway meant the council would have had to develop measures to muffle it and provide safety fencing.
But the key issue was the poor drainage and the fact that the site had been used as a foundry and gasworks making it highly likely that the ground was contaminated.