Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

0113 240 2444

Crown Point House,
167-169 Cross Green Lane,
Leeds LS9 0BD

Negotiated Stopping - How is it going?

The current arrangements

Since the Holbeck and Lincoln Green camps there were a number of further negotiated agreements, ultimately leading to the Kidacre Street site and more formal arrangements we see today.

Taking us up to this point was a challenge, namely in the Council finding an alternative site for the Lincoln Green camp to move to.  Despite many months of searching by Council Officers and various suggestions put forward by Leeds GATE and its members, no meaningful options arose.  Residents of the camp were largely willing and able to move and to negotiate a new site but the Council, were unable to propose a location which had sufficient political support.

The situation progressed after the Lincoln Green camp had been in location for a number of months, when the Council began taking possession orders late 2013, despite by their own admission failing to locate an alternative.  The proceedings were challenged by a number of the residents on the camp with the support of Leeds GATE and some legal representation.  This did not cease the proceedings but did achieve the provision of respite over the Christmas holidays, particularly due to health needs on the part of some members who would have been unable to move.

In early 2014, partly due to the ongoing possession proceedings and partly a desire to move to a new more appropriate site, those resident at Lincoln Green moved to a new location in Cross Green.  As for previous sites, skips and toilets were provided, though possession proceedings were almost immediately issued.

There then proceeded a few months of the camp being moved around to a number of different locations, including Armley and Meanwood. Throughout this period the Council had no site to suggest for negotiation and there was an apparent lack of progress on the policy, with a return to previous Council practices of enforcement.  Whilst the makeup of these different camps varied, with some families joining and leaving at different times, a core group of Leeds based families remained the principal part of the camp throughout.

Despite little progress on negotiating long term stopping for these particular camps, the Council remained open minded to the concept and continued searching.  Whilst present on these camps, the Council proposed some sites to the residents, which were rejected as unsuitable, usually with respect to both location and quality of ground surface.  However, a breakthrough was reached in Spring 2014 when the Council sourced a previously unconsidered site at Crown Point.

The site was found just off an edge of a city centre shopping park, previously a waste storage site decades ago.  Its location was desirable to our members, both because of its proximity to the shopping services and its close links the motorway network.  It also had a large amount of good quality hard standing surface, which has represented a key challenge to find elsewhere.

The Council were encouraged that despite its proximity to the centre there were few residential dwellings and the site was well shielded visually due to its topography; the privacy of which was also welcome by our members.

Members negotiated directly with Council officers, facilitated by GATE, whereby the principle of the location was accepted but improvements were requested, such as provision of a suitable sized tarmacked surface, significant vegetation cutback and waste clean-up.  These requests were accepted. The investment was approved internally within the Council, based upon the savings which would be obtained through avoiding costs associated with their conventional treatment of unauthorised encampments.  By their own figures, the works would justify their investment even if the camp remained for the few months in 2014.  It has of course now well surpassed that date.

Once the initial improvements were delivered, those resident on the previous roadside camp moved onto this new site at Kidacre in late April 2014.  Agreements were signed up by those resident and basic toilet and skip provision was made.  As the months progressed, the skip was replaced by an individual bin service for each family and a water supply was eventually installed.  Throughout, some families came and went, their negotiated agreements being addressed on a case by case basis.   A set group of families have remained throughout the history of the Kidacre site though.

After a number of months the Council, as the land owners, recognised the success and stability of the site.

In June 2014 the Council applied for 12 months temporary permission.  The Council had recognised many positives to the current arrangement and strongly desired for the current camp to continue.  It was also notable that the level of opposition was incomparably small in comparison to any other Gypsy and Traveller related planning application in Leeds in recent years.

The application was finally heard in early November 2014 and was not only granted a one year temporary permission but actually three years by the Planning Panel.  This approval was conditional on their being further development of services and a clearer site management plan as befitting a more permanent arrangements.  These conditions are naturally both welcome to the residents on the site.

Long term there is a question mark over the possibility of the site being made fully permanent.  It not only finds itself close to gas works, a point repeatedly raised in the recent planning application, but on the HS2 route.  Regardless, the prospect of at least three years permission and site improvements to follow is a massive step forward.  There is also an open question regarding future negotiation whereby as the formality of agreements increases on Kidacre it would become more difficult for new families to join.  This for GATE is not a weakness but rather an argument for why negotiation should be applied elsewhere as and when required.

Key Points

  • Even on sites which the Council were unwilling to negotiated stopping, basic services of rubbish collection and toilet facilities were provided.
  • Strong communication between Council and number individuals on camp
  • There have been setbacks and political will has presented a key obstacle to either maintaining momentum or making progress
  • The Council were willing and able to invest a not insignificant pot of money into a potential site for negotiated stopping, using savings by avoiding legal and clean-up costs associated with conventional treatment of unauthorised encampments.
  • Throughout, the members have led the negotiations and discussions, with GATE playing only a facilitating role.
  • The success of the negotiated agreement has become positively reinforcing, with money saved able to be reinvested and the evidence of its success facilitating its time extension and greater development of formality.