Homeowners across the town are fuming after being left “blindsided” by plans for potential traveller sites.
Three pieces of land have been earmarked in Burnley’s Local Plan as the council looks to find a suitable location for a permanent travellers’ camp with 28 pitches.
The Plan says there is no one suitable site large enough to meet that kind of demand so 15 pitches have been proposed for land off Heald Road; a further 15 off Lawrence Avenue and five at the back of Marlborough Street.
Mr Steve Lupton, who has lived in the Lawrence Avenue area for 50 years, said nobody there could understand why the council would want to put a travellers’ site in the middle of a housing estate.
An e-petition he started last Thursday has gathered more 1,200 signatures and Mr Lupton, who is also advising residents to send off for consultation packs, wants the whole town to get behind the campaign.
“It’s only fair that we involve everyone because they will be having the same problems as we have had in the past. It won’t be something that just affects this area, people from all over Burnley will feel the backlash of it.
“We’ve had 15 years of deprivation. The regeneration programme has been going now 15 years, new builds are going up, old houses are being taken down and then, within two weeks, we get a snippet in the Burnley Express to say they are putting this travellers’ site here. It will just be a kick in the teeth for everybody.
“Residents in the area were completely unaware of it until we started going round door to door. We’ve had one meeting, a drop-in one at Howard Street last week and hardly anybody in this area knew about it. Their has been no consultation at all.
“We want to promote a better future for our town.”
Rumours have been rife that Burnley Council housing partner Keepmoat, which has already built a number of houses in Burnley Wood and off Accrington Road, has threatened to put a stop to regeneration work if the situation regarding travellers’ sites is not rectified.
Mr Lupton claimed that, at the Howard Street meeting, representatives from the firm were furious with council bosses because they had not been consulted on these plans.
“They were absolutely livid with what was going on. They were saying they’d had people in to look at the houses that they’ve already built and their words were that there had been a 20% drop in the prices due to the fact there were these plans for travellers sites,” he claimed.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle was also at the meeting and said Keepmoat had made it very clear they were not happy.
“Have a look around, they’re not here any more. They made it clear at that public meeting that they won’t be able to sell houses so they were not going to build them any more.
“I do not understand why the council has gone for this option. The Government says if you have no need for a site, you do not need one, as Pendle has done. That’s what we have said for 40 years. The council, though, went out and got Salford University to do a study looking at why we would need one. Now we’re stuck with one. Why would you do that?”
A Keepmoat spokesman said: “This is certainly not the case. Keepmoat continues to work in partnership with Burnley Council and remains committed to building upon the successful work undertaken so far in regenerating the neighbourhoods of Burnley Wood and South West Burnley.”
Mike Cook, director of economic regeneration at Burnley Council, said: “Keepmoat is continuing to develop high quality new homes in Burnley Wood. The council has a long-standing commitment to work with Keepmoat to regenerate housing in the area and, while it’s true housing market conditions are currently challenging across the borough, we are determined to, and confident we will, complete our regeneration programme.
“It needs to be stressed that we are at the stage of considering and consulting on options for Burnley’s next Local Plan. No decision on which potential sites could be developed, and in what way, has been made and we are committed to talking to residents and other interested parties to make sure everyone has the chance to have their say in shaping our borough’s future. We understand the process raises concerns about a whole range of issues. That is why we want everyone with a stake in our borough to make their views known so they can be taken into account when a decision is finally made.”
Emily Street resident Mrs Joan Haworth accused the council of “back-door politics” in its bid to create permanent travellers’ sites in Burnley Wood.
She said: “The council has known about these plans for a long time but the residents have been kept in the dark until now.
“I do not agree there is a need for such a site here in Burnley Wood.
“We have a good little community around here, which could be ruined if a travellers’ site is built.
“I feel it would also have a detrimental impact on the environment.”
Marlborough Street resident Nicola Duckworth (27) said: “Myself and a lot of my neighbours are against these proposals.
“A permanent travellers’ site would bring down the value of our homes and ruin the outlook from our back gardens.
“I am also angry because travellers do not pay Council Tax, yet we have to accept that something will be built for them on our doorstep.”
The Heald Road site, just off Barden Lane, is causing just as much controversy. A concerned resident wrote in to our letters page last week saying: “What on earth is Burnley Council thinking about proposing to put a permanent travellers’ site in Heald Road, Barden?
“This area is up-and-coming with the new school incorporating public facilities e.g. library, the proposed new apartment complex (who will want to buy these if the council’s plans go ahead?) and also the redevelopment on the Prairie fields with the new driving range. The people of the area are very proud and do not want it spoiling with a blot on the landscape. I was under the impression the council’s slogan is a brighter and better Burnley. I think not if this hair-brained idea gets the go-ahead.”