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Excluded Local council in England to invest more than £4 million in Gypsy and traveller sites across Doncaster

The investment in the Gypsy and Traveller community in the UK is in sharp contrast to the situation in Ireland

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Members of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the UK take part in a rally to oppose a controversial new policing bill in July.

Members of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the UK take part in a rally to oppose a controversial new policing bill in July.

Members of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the UK take part in a rally to oppose a controversial new policing bill in July.

A local council in England is to invest more than £4 million on Gypsy and Traveller sites across Doncaster. 

The deal will see a two-year investment strategy to carry out improvements on “dated and poor conditions” across three council-owned sites.

Work will get underway at the White Towers site in Armthorpe before moving on to Little Lane in Thorne and Lands End in Kirk Sandall.

The investment in the Gypsy and Traveller community, described as “one of the most excluded groups within our communities” is in sharp contrast to the situation in Ireland where the Ombudsman for Children’s Office has been receiving reports of Traveller children across the State living in dire conditions.

A report to councillors in Doncaster reveals how four utility blocks at White Towers had to be demolished for safety because of their “condition and vandalism” while previous lack of investment in the existing provision of four pitches on the Armthorpe site are “unlettable”.

Funding to improve the sites will see new plot boundaries, landscaping and hardstanding works to individual plots, construction of new pedestrian pavement, resurfacing access roads and new fencing.

It is proposed to improve the remaining pitches on the Lands End and Little Lane sites to bring them “up to modern standards”.

St Leger Homes bosses who look after the sites on behalf of the council said they have been “difficult to manage”.

They have reported “resistance” from residents when trying to enforce conditions and add that “significant levels of fly-tipping” takes place on and around the sites.

Chris Margrave, director of property services at St Leger Homes, said: “Ensuring appropriate steps are taken to bring the sites and amenity block up to decent standards will ensure individuals can live safely in their homes.

“The Gypsy and Traveller community are one of the most excluded groups within our communities.

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“It is critical that the accommodation that the council provides is modern and to decent standards.”

Last month, the Ombudsman for Children’s Office landmark report, No End in Site, catalogued repeated failings by Cork City Council to vindicate the rights of Traveller children at its Spring Lane halting site in Blackpool.

Neither the site nor the local authority was named in the report, which identified filthy, overcrowded, rat-infested, unsafe and damp living conditions at the site.

It was the first report by the ombudsman’s office into the living conditions of Traveller children, and since then the office had, Dr Niall Muldoon said, “been contacted by a number of people in relation to other sites”.

“To date, eight new complaints have been made in relation to living conditions of Traveller children – some of these relate to local authority sites, others are about the living conditions of specific families,” he said.

“The complaints come from a number of locations around the country. The issues raised are similar to those raised by the 11 families who complained as part of the No End in Site investigation.

“These include inadequate maintenance, including poor sanitation and waste management, lack of safe areas for children to play, concerns about the health and wellbeing of children and the lack of an effective complaints system as a means to get matters resolved.”

Dr Muldoon said they were hoping to meet the Taoiseach in the coming weeks to “discuss our report and to hear about efforts by the Government, and in particular the Minister for Housing, to identify other children suffering in similar conditions”.

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