TRAVELLERS could be allowed to set up home permanently in Burnley under a council plan.
An authorised camp site is being proposed at Spa Wood Farm, off Billington Road, as part of a long-term vision for the town.
The idea has been welcomed by a travellers charity but a former leader of Burnley Council has blasted the plans.
Gannow councillor Charles Briggs said: “I don’t want travellers in Burnley. I’m one of those people who feel Burnley is not the place for that.
“We had problems at Cog Lane and Hameldon Community College just before Christmas. The kids were throwing stones at residents’ windows.
“If they pay their dues then that’s fine but they don’t seem to want to pay. It must cost the council a fortune in time and effort to remove them.”
Mike Doherty, from The Traveller Movement charity, said: “We welcome any creation of new permanent sites.
“Burnley Council is to be applauded as long as the site is suitable and viable. A lot of unauthorised encampments are a result of a lack of authorised provision - sometimes councils have to step in.
“Most well-managed sites become an active part of the community after a bedding-in period.”
The Burnley Council report, based on a study carried out by the University of Salford in 2012, envisages a need for 28 pitches to be created between now and 2026.
That would mean the creation of 22 pitches by 2016, with a further three between 2017 and 2021, and another three between 2022 and 2026.
According to the report, Spa Wood Farm is currently used by gypsies and travellers without permission, while the council is awaiting the results of a survey to discover if protected animal species use the land.
Trinity councillor Howard Baker said: “I wouldn’t expect any problems with that site. It’s out of the way, with good motorway access and not too many residents.
“I’m not sure whether it will alleviate the problem in Trinity but it seems like a good site to me moving forward.”
In the past 18 months, travellers have set up camps at several sites across Burnley, including Towneley Park, the vacant Ivy Bank High School site in Byron Street, and the car parks of the General Havelock pub and the Travelodge, both in Barracks Road.
Caravans have also been served with notices to leave land off Harwold Avenue on the Stoops Estate, Whittlefield Recreation Park in Gannow, Cog Lane, Tay Street and Hargher Street.
The proposal is part of Burnley’s Local Plan: Issues and Options.
It said: “Research has shown that a lack of suitable accommodation and poor conditions is related to poor educational attainment and health, as well as being at the root of ill-feeling between the non-traveller community and gypsies and travellers.
“In addition, addressing accommodation will reduce the costs of maintaining the process that surrounds unauthorised encampments and developments.”
The Housing Act 2004 placed a duty upon councils to produce assessments of accommodation needs for gypsies and travellers.
Neighbouring Hyndburn has had an authorised caravan site for up to 15 pitches at Whinney Hill Road, in Altham, since 1981.
The draft Local Plan document, which highlights the borough’s prospective housing and infrastructure needs for the next two decades, will be presented to Burnley Council’s executive next Tuesday, when councillors will be asked to approve a public consultation on the issue.
Coun Shah Hussain, executive member for regeneration and economic development, said: “We have to get this right so we can control future development and do all we can to make sure it happens where and how we want it to, in the best interests of the whole borough.”
If agreed, the consultation will run for six weeks from mid-February to the end of March. It will then go out for further consultation later this year before a final Local Plan is submitted to the Government in 2015.