THE Shadow Minister for Sports and Equalities expressed concern over Torfaen Council ’s proposal to expand a Gipsy Traveller site in Pontypool by using a football pitch.

Mohammad Asghar AM is concerned about proposals to extend the current Shepherd’s Hill site in Cwmynyscoy by using a football pitch at the Race to accommodate more caravans.

The proposals for a £3.6 million expansion of the Gipsy and Travellers site will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of Torfaen council on September 13 at 4pm in Pontypool Active Living Centre, which will consider the council’s Local Development Plan.

Race Junior Football Club have been battling for a designated safe football pitch since 1997 when their local pitch was closed due to subsidence.

Mohammad Asghar AM said: "The football club has been requesting a new pitch for the past 15 years after Torfaen Council closed the previous one for health and safety reasons. The Council is aware that this club has been in need of facilities for a long time and has failed to acknowledge requests for a new pitch. This is not acceptable.

"As Shadow Minister for Equalities, I acknowledge the need and the right for every human being to have access to shelter and accommodation. The Gipsy and travelling community are no exception and have been provided with the Shepherd's Hill site since 1974.

"However, the non-travelling members of the community also have the right to see enhancements to their facilities. The football club should also be a priority.

"There have also been allegations that members of the Gipsy traveller community have been involved in anti-social behaviour and criminal activities. Apparently some members of the Torfaen community have not felt comfortable approaching the police about these issues. They must be encouraged to come forward and make their voices heard or else they will be marginalised in council decisions.

"The council needs to represent and treat both communities fairly."

A spokesman for Torfaen Council said: "We are in active discussions with the club and have identified a potential site as part of our Gipsy traveller proposals.

"The proposals are not totally dependent on each other, however there are potential funding opportunities to finance the new football field which we would look to explore."