RESIDENTS in Sully have blasted the Vale of Glamorgan Council over the relocation of Travellers from the old Billybanks site in Penarth to the former council tip on Hayes Road.
Around 50 people attended a Sully Community Council meeting at the Jubilee Hall last Thursday evening (January 12), to put their concerns to head of visible services Miles Punter, ward member Cllr Anthony Ernest, and two members of the police team monitoring the issue.
Representatives of the Travellers were also at the meeting, and one said: "We don’t want to be a burden to anyone and we have no intention to cause trouble."
But residents present said that while they had nothing against the Travellers personally, they were concerned about the issue and what they saw as a lack of information from the council.
One resident at the meeting said: "The council has set a precedent letting them on to the site. What happens when other traveller arrive?
"And what is happening with the waste they produce? There are no toilets on that site."
David Roberts, clerk to the community council, said: "The site they are on is actually contaminated land. It is detrimental to their health to be there, and surely allowing them to stay is just encouraging a drain on the Vale’s medical resources.
"The number of caravans at the site has increased 100 per cent since last week," he added.
"Last week there were seven, this week I counted 15."
Another Sully resident said: "It seems it's one rule for Travellers, and another for everyone else. If I turned up at that site in a tent I would be moved on more or less immediately, so why aren’t they?
"Exactly how much is this going to cost the rate payers, who will invariably end up paying for the legal costs incurred by the council as they investigate how to proceed?"
Speaking after the meeting, a Sully man - who asked not to be named - said the big worry was the effect on house prices.
"The Travellers may cause no trouble at all, but the view of the village will still be negatively affected, rightly or wrongly," he said.
"We want to know what is going on, not just for us but for the travellers as well. They deserve a fair deal. But there is no communication from the Vale Council."
Also in attendance at the meeting was a small contingent from the Travellers group currently living at the former dump, and they spoke several times during the hour-and-a-half-long discussion about the situation.
"We take nothing from the surrounding area," said one.
"I do not use gas or electric. I travel to the homes of friends in the area to use their toilet or I use public facilities.
"I work in the Vale caring for the elderly. This is my home. But there is nowhere else for us to go in the borough. When we got to the site the gate was partially unlocked so we let ourselves in.
"We don’t want to be a burden to anyone and we have no intention to cause trouble. If people have concerns they are more than welcome to come to the site and speak to us.
"The question is would people prefer a community of hard-working individuals on the site, or somewhere that people fly-tip and burn out cars?"
The police officers present said there was little concern on their part about the possibility of crime increasing in the area.
Sergeant Francis, speaking on behalf of South Wales Police, said: "During their time at the Billybanks the Travellers behaved impeccably.
"Nothing we have seen over the Christmas period indicates that anything will be different at Hayes Road."
Speaking at the meeting Miles Punter said ideally there would be a designated site for the travellers in the Vale.
"Unfortunately that is not the case," he said.
"In fact there is a distinct lack of sites for travellers across Wales."
After the meeting people took to the Sully Residents Association message board to state their views further.
"I have no axe to grind with the Travellers in question, but what I do have an issue with is the apparent ‘smoke and mirrors’ on the issue from the local authority. Say one thing, do another. How do they expect people to trust anything they say or do?" wrote one person.
Another wrote: "The Vale has hoodwinked us over this site. The lack of adequate security on the waste site is another example of how they have grossly failed the villagers here. It shows the contempt that the council has in respect of this village."
In a statement this week, Miles Punter said: "As I informed the residents and travellers in attendance at the meeting, the council is taking a balanced approach to this matter and is initially seeking to establish the social and welfare needs of the travellers, as we are required to by law.
"Health and safety is a key factor in this process and officers are in contact with Biffa, the council's waste management contractor who holds a waste management licence for this site, and the various chemical companies who are operating in close proximity.
"We have also involved the Health and Safety Executive in the process. When all the relevant information is received this will be put before the council's legal team for further consideration."