CONTROVERSIAL plans that could see a permanent site for gipsies and travellers created in Hartlepool have been revealed.
Hartlepool Borough Council is consulting residents and businesses over proposals for a six-pitch site off Brenda Road, next to the Tees Bay Retail Park.
Under national guidelines, local authorities need to make some provision for gipsies and travellers in their Local Plan, a planning blueprint formerly known as the Core Strategy.
But the plans have been met with a mixed reaction from councillors, residents and businesses.
Officers say they have assessed more than 100 potential sites in Hartlepool.
Council-owned land surrounding the retail park has been identified as the preferred option for the potential site which could be based anywhere on that land.
People are now being urged to have their say during a consultation due to run until August 21.
The responses will then be forwarded to a Government planning inspector who will decide whether the preferred site should be included in the Local Plan at a public examination in the autumn.
If it is, council bosses stress it would be subject to the usual planning process, which would include further details about what facilities would be needed on site.
The proposals follow a Tees Valley-wide study in 2009 to assess the need for sites across the region.
A council spokesman said: “All councils are requested to make some provision in their Local Plan for gipsies/travellers.
“Consequently, in 2009 the council, along with other Tees Valley authorities, commissioned a study to access the need in Hartlepool and the conclusion was that the town should identify a six-pitch site for gipsies/travellers.
“Since then the council has looked at around 100 potential sites and the preferred one is on land to the east of Brenda Road, adjacent to Tees Bay Retail Park.
“The next step is to consult residents and business in the immediate vicinity and letters went out earlier this month.
“We would urge people to respond to the consultation and they have until 21 August to do so.
“Once all of the comments have been received, the council will forward them to the Government’s planning inspector who will determine whether the preferred six-pitch site should be included in the Local Plan.
“If it is included any proposed six-pitch site would still be subject to all of the usual planning criteria including planning permission.”
Independent Seaton ward councillor, Cath Hill, said: “It is very unlikely to actually happen because I don’t think there is the need.
“But we need to have a site highlighted in the plan.
“Nobody wants it in their back yard and as somebody who criticises people who have that attitude I would have to say on balance that site is ok.
“Gipsies and travellers that do come to town currently go there anyway.”
Independent Seaton ward councillor Paul Thompson said: “Councils have a duty to include in their Local Plans provision for a pitch or series of pitches.
“There were a number of sites suggested and it has been narrowed down to this one.
“It seems to be the natural area of choice by those travelling communities that come into Hartlepool, which are few and far between, and it would pose as little disruption to local residents as possible.
“It is going to have to go somewhere and broadly speaking I support the officers recommendation.”
Anyone who wants to comment on the proposals can either email email@example.com or write to the planning policy team at Hartlepool Borough Council, Bryan Hanson House, Hanson Square, Hartlepool, TS24 7BT.