A COUNCIL leader is to tell the Government he wants to scrap all plans to create up to six Gypsy sites.

Bob Cook, leader of Stockton Borough Council, will ask for special dispensation to “start from scratch.”

He said the move follows a “phenomenal” public response over proposals for six new Gypsy sites which sparked “one of the most controversial consultations we’ve ever had.”

The Government requires councils, when it is formulating its local plan, to work out the number of Gypsy and Traveller pitches it may need to provide over the coming years.

After talking to Gypsies, Stockton council calculated there was a need for 26 pitches and identified six possible sites: Roddmere, Yarm Back Lane, Stockton; Frederick Street, Stockton; the area between Bowesfield Crescent and the River Tees, Stockton; Mill Lane, Billingham; Eltham Crescent, Thornaby and the area between the River Tees and Thornaby Road, Thornaby.

However, the proposals met with a hostile response from the public with a total of 565 individuals objecting together with four petitions signed by almost 850 people plus a letter of objection supported by 55 neighbours.

Many members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities also said they didn’t want to live in such urban areas.

Cllr Cook, Labour, explained that in the West Midlands, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has already been given special dispensation by Local Government Minister, Eric Pickles, to scrap its Gypsy site proposals and to re-examine the issue from scratch.

He said Stockton now also thought it would need fewer than 26 pitches for the Gypsy and Traveller communities in any case and didn't want to be rushed into making a bad decision.

“I hope that by making this recommendation it shows that when we ask people for their views we do listen...We ask the Government to let us do what they keep preaching about, and that’s localism, letting decisions be made locally.”

Louise Baldock, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stockton South, campaigned on the issue in Thornaby. She said: “I welcome this decision. Residents, particularly in Thornaby, have been anxious and concerned that they might lose their community spaces.”

Cllr Cook’s proposal to scrap the current proposal will be considered by the Cabinet committee on Thursday, July 17 and, if approved, will then be debated at full council.