TRAVELLERS who sparked controversy after being given a temporary home at a holiday park in Northumberland will be gone within three months, it has been revealed.
The Journal revealed six weeks ago how an extended travelling family had been allowed to move onto the vacant caravan and camp site at the Wansbeck Riverside Park in Ashington.
They were permitted by county council bosses to move their six caravans from their previous roadside location a few miles away, which was not considered to be safe or appropriate to their needs.
Subsequently, almost 700 local people signed a petition amid concerns that the 17-acre park could become a permanent transit site for travelling families, after the council said its long-term future was under review.
Now a new report to councillors says the family will be allowed to stay on site over the winter months, but will leave no later than the end of March.
In addition, it has been decided not to use Riverside Park as a permanent transit site – and it will be put back on the market as a leisure and camping facility when it becomes vacant in the spring.
The council allowed the family to move in on November 11, saying it had a legal duty to provide them with suitable accommodation under homelessness legislation.
At that time the proposed sale of the caravan park was put on hold to enable the travellers to use it, and to assess its potential as a permanent transit site.
Ashington Town Council later expressed its fury that it only found out about the county council decision by reading it in The Journal.
Yesterday chairman John McCormack said: “We were extremely unhappy about the lack of consultation at the outset, because we are quite prepared to work with the county council to identify a permanent transit site for travellers in south east Northumberland.
“Our other major concern was that the Riverside Park is not an appropriate site for that use.
“We wanted assurances that it would not become a permanent travellers’ site, and we now appear to have that.
“The remaining concern now is that Riverside Park was due to be sold before this all happened, and we were hoping for some investment in what is a key, strategic asset for Ashington.
“We don’t know now whether the proposed buyer is still prepared to go ahead, or if the whole project has been set back and the investment threatened.”
The residents’ petition, which was signed by 673 people, will be discussed by the county council’s south east area committee next month. It says the petitioners strongly object to any moves to create a permanent or temporary facility for gypsies or travellers in any part of the Riverside Park.
It reads: “As one of the town’s valued and recognised leisure assets, this park and tourist site is not appropriate for such a use, and should be retained and managed as a leisure and recreational facility.”
In a report to the area committee, corporate director of adult services and housing Daljit Lally says the future of the site has been reviewed by officers, who have concluded that it should continue as a leisure facility
She said: “Officers are working with local parish councils and other stakeholders to identify a more suitable long-term option for a transit site in south east Northumberland for gypsies and travellers.”