COUNCILLORS have questioned whether there should be designated sites for gypsies and travellers in Caerphilly County Borough.

On Tuesday, June 21, a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) was presented to the council’s housing and regeneration scrutiny committee.

At the meeting, Independent councillor Bob Owen asked if the local authority should provide sites for gypsies and travellers.

Cllr Owen, who represents Risca West, said: “We could collect rubbish and have cleaner sites than if we leave them to their own devices – is there an attraction to provide sites?”

He added: “It’s always a bit controversial when we’re talking about travellers, but clearly it is a worry when it’s in various wards, but a lot of the time they just move on.”

Head of housing at the council, Nick Taylor-Williams, said the findings of the survey did not indicate that the council needed to provide sites.

But, he added: “If we did we would have a bit more control. It’s not something we are contemplating currently given the findings of the report.”

The assessment interviewed nine people who all identified as Roma gypsies.

The results show that all those consulted said they were happy where they were based and did not want to join the council’s pitch or housing waiting list.

Just 0.02 per cent of Caerphilly County Borough’s population identified as ‘Gypsy or Irish Traveller’ according to the 2011 census.

Plaid Cymru councillor Colin Mann echoed Cllr Owen’s comments and questioned if it would be “more sensible” to provide sites to avoid people residing on unauthorised sites.

Currently, there are three unauthorised sites in the county borough occupied by travellers, two of which are in Ynysddu and Rhymney, while the other was not disclosed.

Both sites in Ynysddu and Rhymney have submitted retrospective planning applications, which are currently at early stages – if refused, the council may need to find alternative sites.

Cllr Mann added: “There’s probably more demand than we’re being told. This is and can be a controversial situation and I’m not convinced we’re handling it properly by not doing anything.”

The report presented to the committee said: “Over the last ten years on average there were one or two instances of unauthorised encampments per year taking place on public-owned land.

“Encampments taking place during this period typically lasted less than one week and consisted of two to three caravans. These encampments would have been managed by the environmental health team in accordance with the council’s protocol for managing such encampments.”

Eleven councillors endorsed the report, and two councillors abstained. The report will now go to council’s cabinet to be approved.