Council chiefs praised for treatment of travellers

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NORTHUMBERLAND County Council has been praised for the hospitality it has shown an extended family of travellers in need of a temporary home.

The family, living in several caravans, have been given sanctuary on a campsite next to a nature reserve at Wansbeck Riverside Park, near Ashington. They had previously been living on a roadside.

At last week’s meeting of the council’s south east area committee, Bernard Pidcock, pictured, manager of Blyth Citizens’ Advice Bureau, said the humane approach being taken was an example to the rest of the country.

Concern has been voiced by some neighbours of the council-owned site that the travellers’ presence could become permanent, but it was agreed that the council’s hands are tied.

Committee chairman Coun Ian Swithenbank, of Cramlington East, said he had called a meeting with a view to looking at the issue of travellers and the laws dealing with them.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to address this problem carefully and coolly,” he said.

“Sometimes in some of the media, you get extreme views from both sides.”

Mr Pidcock walked out of the meeting at New Hartley Community Centre last Wednesday as Coun Jeff Gobin disagreed, saying: “I’ve never heard such a load of tosh in all my life.”

Travellers had been known to cause serious nuisance to communities by making a mess and blocking rights of way, he said.

However, he agreed that the council had little choice but to move the family to the site.

Coun Tom Wilson, of Ashington Central, said: “We are being told nothing which is going on. It’s totally, totally wrong.”

Town councillor Arthur Pegg said the site at East Hartford was home to gypsies and they did not mix with other travellers as the cultures were different, prompting Coun Jim Sawyer, of Ashington’s College ward, to ask: “Why accept it when gypsies don’t accept travellers, but when residents on a housing estate don’t accept travellers they say you cannot do that? What’s the difference?”

Coun Swithenbank said: “This is a significant issue for the areas that are affected by it. Let’s not pretend otherwise.”