Councils unhappy about use of park as travellers’ site

CONCERNS have been raised about the use of an Ashington park to accommodate travellers.

Last week, the News Post Leader reported how Northumberland County Council had offered hospitality to a family of travellers at Wansbeck Riverside Park.

However, both Ashington Town Council and Choppington Parish Council have expressed reservations about the move.

Representatives of both councils have met county council officials to seek reassurances after the council agreed to allowed the travellers to stay at the camping and caravan site.

Ashington Town Council chairman John McCormack said: “As a new town council, we have worked hard over the last two years to develop a good working relationship with the county council based on trust and understanding of our respective roles.

“We have made it clear on a number of occasions that no decisions should be taken that directly affect Ashington without our full knowledge and involvement.

“To find out about this contentious decision via the local media is completely unacceptable to us, and we have made our views directly known to the county council in the strongest terms.”

Choppington Parish Council chairman Ray Butler said: “Given the understandable concerns of residents, Jeff Reid, the county council chairman, has given a categoric assurance that this is a one-off occurrence and that the Riverside Park will not be used in future as a location for travellers, emergency or otherwise.”

The sale of the camping and caravan park for tourism use is expected to take place next year or soon after.

Coun McCormack said: “We recognise the fact that Northumberland County Council has a statutory duty to consider the needs of gypsies and travellers in Northumberland and that there is also a particular issue in the south east of Northumberland with high levels of gypsy and traveller activity.

“While we will be prepared to openly work with the county council in considering those needs and identifying any appropriate local sites, we wish to make it very clear that the Riverside Park is not appropriate for such use, would never be formally recognised or accepted as such, and should be retained as a key recreational and leisure facility in the town.”

A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “In line with our housing policies we are allowing a small group of travellers temporary access to the caravan site, which is owned by the council.

“We have informed local residents about this. The long term future of the site is currently under consideration. No firm decision has been taken yet, and there would be full consultation with the local community if a change of use was proposed.”