Councillor Ken Meeson, leader of Solihull Council, told the council’s last cabinet meeting he was disturbed to hear someone had tried to ‘stir up local feeling’ against proposals to include Uplands, in Dickens Heath Road, in the borough’s list of authorised travellers’ sites.
“This site has been there for well over 20 years,” he said. “People didn’t even know it was there. It can suggest it has undertones of racism.”
The accusation sparked debate at the meeting where Labour leader Coun David Jamieson challenged Coun Meeson, saying: “It sounded like you were saying that people who raised legitimate concerns about gypsy sites, then you mentioned racism.”
Coun Meeson told him: “Of course people can mention legitimate concerns, what I found disturbing was that one person in particular was attempting to raise concerns with other people.”
Three pitches have been suggested at the Uplands site to help the borough meet its housing requirement for travellers.
Since being proposed, over 40 objections have been lodged against the site, where gypsies pitched up over two decades ago. The camp previously received two council enforcement notices for unauthorised commercial and caravan use.
Speaking after the meeting Dickens Heath parish councillor Josh O’Nyons who previously handed out a newsletter about the site to local residents, called Coun Meeson’s suggestion “a load of old cobblers.”
“All I was doing was bringing this consultation to the attention of residents,” said the former member of UKIP who now represents Solihull Independent Ratepayers.
“Should someone with a legitimate concern over planning really have that claim made against them?”
However, Coun Meeson said there was now no choice but to make the site official.