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From Gypsies and Travellers in their own words

Cottingley Springs Caravan Sites

The original Cottingley Springs Caravan Site was the first 'Official' site for Travellers built by Leeds City Council in 1969. It was a response to the Caravan Sites Act 1968 which made it the responsibility of every local authority to provide sites for those Travellers that "reside or resort to their area".

Cottingley site overview

A photograph showing an overview of the site at Cottingley Springs

The minimum provision was for fifteen caravans, which is what Leeds provided. At that time there were two hundred and twenty-five caravans in Leeds.

"The council built this site and at last our families had somewhere to stop without being shifted all the time. This was the beginning of site provision in Leeds. It came about 'cos we had campaigned hard for them to do something for us here"
Tommy Doherty

In return for their weekly rent, the residents enjoyed security of tenure and would not be moved on. The 'official' site provided individual plots of hardstanding, each with an electricity supply and postal service. There were shared drinking water and toilet facilities and refuse collection from skips which were provided.

Most families continued to live on the roadside or on pieces of waste ground. Families lived without any water, sanitation, hardstanding, postal delivery or rubbish collection. These families were continually moved on and found access to education and health care very difficult.

Cottingley Springs New Site

In 1987 Cottingley Springs New Site was built for a further twenty families. This was a good site in that all the families had their own plot with their own facilities in a utility block including, a washroom, bathroom, toilet and electric point for the trailer.

"I stopped on the old site for a few years. It was a temporary transit site whilst we were waiting for the new site at the bottom to be ready. When we moved down we were delighted to have all new facilities, it was a big step forward.

We were grateful to the Council and the people who helped and got this site organised. We are still on it and have been here twelve years."

Bill Doran

The old site was refurbished with toilets for each plot holder, built in blocks on the site. This was a temporary measure whilst plans were made for further council provision.

In 1990, another site was built at Cottingley Springs for thirty-six families and it was called Cottingley 'B' site. The old 'Top Site' was closed. The second site, built in 1987, at the bottom of the hill, was now called 'Cottingley Springs 'A' site'.

No Travellers wanted the 'B' Site built so close to Cottingley 'A'. They also thought that it was too big and wanted smaller sites. The Travellers were pleased to have good amenity blocks like they had on the Cottingley 'A' site, but wished that it had been built somewhere else.

Cottingley 'B' Site

When Cottingley 'B' was opened in 1990, sixteen families came down from the old 'Top Site' on the hill, which had been closed. Twenty families joined them from the roadside camps around the city. Many families had not stopped together before and many moved off as they found the site too big and unsettling. Other families moved in to replace them and this process was repeated, so there was a high turnover of residents on the 'B' site compared to the older 'A' site.

Crisis Time On Cottingley 'B'

During the 1990's many families were evicted from traditional stopping places in the city. They were relocated onto the Cottingley Springs 'B' site. Many of them did not want to come onto this large council site, but were given no choice. This again led to tensions and difficulties between families who had previously not stopped together and would have preferred to stay on their traditional camps. The Site went through a terrible time in 1996 and 1997. It became a virtual 'no-go-area' and many families left.

The council began to clear up and repair the damage. They decided to make the site smaller, in order to make it more manageable with fewer families living together.

In 1998 Cottingley Springs Caravan Site 'B' was reduced in size from thirty-six plots to twenty-six plots. There was no additional or alternative provision of sites made to compensate for this significant reduction in council facilities. At that time, the rent for a plot on the site at Cottingley was £60 per week for one caravan and £12 extra for a second caravan.

There were further plans to build more Council Sites in the early nineties, when Leeds had a target of providing accommodation for another fifty families. These were never built, even though there was a 100% grant available to do so.

The duty to build Sites, and the 100% grant from the Department of the Environment to do so, were repealed under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

Many families want alternative accommodation and some would like community housing, as developed in Ireland, and others would like smaller family sites.

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In Their Own Words

Own WordsGypsies and Travellers in their own words compiled by the Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service is a fantastic read, and gives amazing insights into the lives and times of Travellers in this country.

Unfortunately this book is no longer available.

The collection of stories and personal histories in this rich volume creates a vivid picture of life within the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

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