WORK is almost complete on revamping a Gainsborough travellers’ site which has received over £1.6 million in funding – the largest such grant in the country.
About £1.63 million has been spent on improvements to land off Summergangs Lane, near Lea Road train station, where more than 20 families of travellers are based.
Local residents and councillors have expressed a mixture of outrage, concern and optimism.
“The money would be better spent on an A and E service or at least improving the hospital,” said Gainsborough resident Lindsey Cavill. “They spent the same on the travellers years ago developing the site – so why are they spending more?”
Fellow resident Jacki Siely added: “And they can’t afford to keep the Cedars care home open? That makes sense, doesn’t it?”
Councillor for the South-West ward Trevor Young welcomed the investment but said that measures should be taken to take more care of the site.
“It’s great that this money has been put into the area and we should always strive to improve their accomodation, but I’m concerned that money has been put into the site before and it’s fallen into disrepair because that was allowed to happen,” said Coun Young.
“A robust management system needs to be put in place by the county council to look after it with the success that it once saw. Residents’ main complaints are of cables being burned and anti-social behaviour, and that can all be avoided.”
Deputy Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Coun Peter Robinson said: “The county council has been awarded around £1.2 million by the Home and Communities Agency this year to make much-needed improvements to the Summergangs Lane Travellers’ Site.”
“The money was to address the lack of facilities for residents at the site including the refurbishment of existing pitches, and the provision of 21 new amenity blocks with kitchen and bathroom facilities.”
He added: “The money is also being spent on extending the size of several pitches and upgrading the site’s electricity supply, installing new perimeter and boundary fencing and making road improvements.”
Sam Turner from the Gainsborough Traveller Initiative said that the work will make a huge difference to the families who live there.
“It’s been a complete refurbishment – from sorting out the drains and the fencing to putting in some lovely units, a play area and day rooms,” she said.
Sam continued: “The families have been wanting this for such a long time and it’s been very hard-going and it’s fantastic that the council have been quite forward-thinking to work with this community and give them what they want whilst respecting their lifestyle and culture.”
Sam said that it was unfortunate that the travelling community was misunderstood.
“It’s a shame, but I know that travellers do get bad press, but I have worked with the people on this site for eight years and they are a lovely and welcoming community. People focus on the negatives, but they’ve put on a fashion show to raise money for cancer, volunteered at local nurseries and have been helping out in residential homes.”
Sam added: “Councils spend millions on council housing up and down the county and this is no different – it’s just a fact that these are people’s homes and they need somewhere to live.”
The Standard went along to the site for a guided tour by site manager Ian Elsey from Gelder.
“It’s a total refurbishment of everything they have ever had,” he said. “The living conditions are 100 per cent better than what they were, and the families love it.”
He added: “The response from them has been great, and they’re really nice people who want to take care of what they’ve got.”