CABINET members will be asked to back fresh plans for a gypsy and traveller transit site in November after a committee welcomed the move.

A cross-party working group presented a report to Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWaC) people overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday night, calling for a timetable to be released by the end of the year outlining how a transit site could be set up in the borough.

Such a site would give police powers to move travellers off unauthorised encampments immediately, provide better facilities for Travellers looking to stay in the borough temporarily and raise an income for the council.

Throughout the project Conservatives Cllr Margaret Parker and Cllr Lynn Gibbon worked with Labour members Cllr Carol Gahan and Cllr Val Armstrong, who chaired the group.

“We recognise that there are a lot of emotive issues raised in communities – both settled communities and the Gypsy, Roma and Travellers who are looking for somewhere to stay,” Cllr Armstrong said.

“They are a group who experience discrimination and this affects their access to healthcare, education and other services that many of us take for granted.

“Unauthorised encampments can sometimes – not always – lead to elements of anti-social behaviour, restrict access to public spaces and can lead to issues for residents and businesses.”

CWaC worked on plans to open a transit site at the former Foxfields pub in Ellesmere Port last year, but they were shelved following strong opposition from neighbours.

The group was left ‘impressed’ after visiting Halton’s transit site, which opened in 2009, and they found it to be a ‘safe place’ for travellers to access crucial services.

In Halton, the number of unauthorised encampments fell from 83 in 2005 to just three from January 1 to July 19, 2019, compared to 25 in Cheshire West in the same period this year, and 82 in 2018.

The group did not consider specific locations for a transit site – and Cllr Richard Beacham, cabinet member for housing, growth and regeneration, told the committee he is ‘open to suggestions’.

Asked whether the proposed timescale is reasonable, Alison Amesbury, senior manager for strategic housing at CWaC, said: “We believe that it is possible.

“There have been quite a number of site searches historically, going back quite a number of years, so the intention is that we are not starting from scratch.

“What we need to do is learn from what we have done in the past and come up with some options, and then a timescale for community engagement with all aspects of the community in order to bring that forward.”

Welcoming the report, Cllr Adam Langan, Labour member for Newton and Hoole, added: “I think a transit site would solve a lot of the problems that we currently face.”

Other recommendations that will be put to cabinet in November include raising awareness of the needs of Gypsies and Travellers among staff and residents, and setting up an officer working group in January 2020 to respond to unauthorised encampments.