A new list of proposed Gipsy and traveller sites in Newport has spurred hundreds of concerned residents into action. DAVID DEANS reports.

LAST year a shortlist of proposals for Gipsy and traveller sites in Newport was sent back to the drawing board after it provoked protests and objections residents.

But a new list, drawn up in a process intended to be open and transparent ahead of a final shortlist, has attracted yet more objections from residents living near proposed sites.

There has also been criticism of the make-up of the group that drew up the list – with one top Tory arguing that members who had sites in the previous shortlist should not have been involved.

Already pockets of opposition have formed across Newport to the proposals in the new list of possible gipsy and traveller sites.

An action group has been formed to oppose proposals in Langstone, while meetings have been held over the issue in Llanmartin and Marshfield.

The group is already thinking about a judicial review over the proposals.

Almost 1,000 people attempted to attend a meeting in Langstone earlier in the month, where the site in Llanmartin and others in the Langstone ward were discussed.

It later emerged that one of the sites – land south of Langstone Cottage – contains an ancient monument.

Another site in Langstone – Langstone Nursery on Magor Road – has turned out to be owned by awardwinning giant veg grower Ian Neale.

“We believe from day one the process is totally flawed,” said Peter Morgan, chairman of the newly formed Langstone Community Action Group.

“It is flawed because of the number of things that are beginning to come out.”

He said there was overwhelming evidence that the two sites, and one proposed near the A449, do not meet Newport council’s criteria.

The group is considering a judicial review “if required,” Mr Morgan said. That would be subject to research and the group taking legal and planning advice, but Mr Morgan says the group has had “substantial funds” pledged from residents.

However it is currently encouraging residents to respond to the current consultation.

In Marshfield ward two sites are proposed, the former chicken processing plant in Castleton, and land at Celtic Way, Marshfield.

In the ward 200 people met to discuss concerns about the proposals at a planning meeting of Marshfield Community Council last week.

The council is encouraging residents to submit formal responses, and has published a detailed list of objections to the two proposals.

Kirstie Evans, Marshfield community council vice-chairwoman, said the site causing most concern is the former chicken plant.

There are worries more traffic on Marshfield Road could impact on road safety, with traffic already a big concern.

Access to the site is, according to the community council, via a privately owned road which would need to be purchased by the council.

Ms Evans claimed that the chicken processing plant is on a “green wedge” site, that local infrastructure in terms of bus routes and doctors surgeries is inadequate.

Ms Evans said there were also concerns that the proximity of the Celtic Way site to business parks in the west of Newport could have a “significant negative impact on the local economy.”

“Everyone in Marshfield is very concerned,” she said.

“However we are not allowing our emotions to run away with us.”

Another meeting, at Underwood Leisure Centre, was due to take place on Friday to discuss worries of residents in Llanmartin at a proposed site west of Llanmartin Primary School.

Tony Watkins, a resident of Llanmartin, said: “It’s a one- way system into our estate. It’s the traffic, it’s the access to the site.”

He said access to the proposed site is by a single lane dirt track smaller than the width of a car, and that there were also drainage issues.

“We understand they have got to go somewhere but it’s the bottom of the estate, right next to the school,” he added.

Political bias is denied as councillors examine possible locations

NEWPORT council must include both permanent and transit Gipsy and traveller sites within its local development plan.

In June, following the controversy over the last shortlist of names a group of councillors, formed from volunteers from the scrutiny committee for community planning and development, was established to review the issue. In the end, councillors Val Delahaye of Bettws, Allan Morris of Lliswerry, Paul Hannon of Beechwood, Tom Suller of Marshfield and Trevor Watkins of Tredegar Park stepped forward to take part.

A long list of 220 locations was reviewed by the group, which met on a weekly basis and assessed a list of sites against a list of criteria.

This included:

● The closeness of sites to local facilities such as health services, schools and shops

● Vehicular access to the site

● Existing uses of the site, such as whether it is used as an environmental space

● Hazards on site ● Green wedge or green belt

● Proximity to major roads

● Public transport links

● Privacy

● Issues such as flooding and conservation areas.

After forming the list in the summer the group came up with a list of 11 sites for further consultation – set to end on October 4.

The list did not include the original shortlist – Yew Tree Cottage in Bettws, three in Nash and one in Coedkernew.

Not all the sites will be required and the list will be whittled down to a shortlist following a 28-day consultation.

Councillors visited all sites identified as potentially suitable against the criteria, before agreeing the list, according to Newport council. Matthew Evans, Tory leader, said most of the sites were located in Tory wards.

His party colleague Cllr David Fouweather said he didn’t feel the group properly represented the political make-up of the council – with the group having only one Tory member, Cllr Suller.

He also highlighted that three of the councillors – Cllr Suller of Marshfield, Cllr Morris of Lliswerry and Cllr Delahey of Bettws, had sites in the original shortlist in their wards.

“I think that any councillors who previously had a site identified in their ward should not have been involved,” he said.

A source close to the group highlighted that there are sites in Lliswerry and Marshfield wards in the new list. Meanwhile Cllr Hannon, a member of the group, said accusations of political bias were unfair on Cllr Suller who was an “equal” party.

He said that access to the Yew Tree Cottage site in Bettws, which was dropped as a potential site, was “almost impossible”.

“It’s nonsense to suggest that there is political bias. I think its a rather desperate comment,” he said.