Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Oxford under fire over Gypsy site

Oxford should be "ashamed" of itself for failing to find space for Gypsies and travellers in the city, councillors from rural districts have claimed.

Oxfordshire has been asked to find at least 42 caravan pitches in the next decade - but Oxford claims it does not have enough room.

Cherwell Council's Keiron Mallon said the attitude should be "exposed".

But Oxford's Lord Mayor Susanna Pressel said it has 1,000 people waiting to be housed and no more land to spare.

Oxfordshire's rural district councils want the number of sites shared out evenly so Oxford has to take a share.

'Absolutely outrageous'

Conservative Cherwell District councillor James Macnamara told a meeting on the issue on Monday night he was unimpressed by the city's stance.

"The city's dog in the manger attitude of saying 'oh, they can't come and stay in our city' is absolutely outrageous," he said.

All the other district councils around the city have plenty of land and hardly any homeless people
Susanna Pressel
Oxford Lord Mayor

Fellow Tory Mr Mallon added: "It is really interesting to see that Oxford and Oxford City Council do not want Gypsies in their city - not a very enlightened or embracing attitude for a left-leaning city and a left-wing council to have or to adopt in this day and age.

"I think the councillors in Oxford city should be exposed for this attitude and I think the city should be ashamed of its attitude to ethnic minorities in this county."

But Ms Pressel, a member of the Labour-led Oxford City Council, said it already has 1,000 people it is statutorily obliged to house on its waiting list.

"That is why we can't genuinely give over pieces of land to people we are not statutorily obliged to house," she said.

Travelling showmen

"We do have a traveller site in Redbridge which has about 16 plots. We are willing to make that a bit bigger.

"All the other district councils around the city have plenty of land and hardly any homeless people because they send their homeless people to Oxford."

More than 1,200 spaces are planned for areas including Oxfordshire. West Sussex needs to find 201 pitches and Kent, potentially 320.

The numbers come from the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA), which is drawing up plans to find more space for Gypsies, travellers and travelling showmen. A consultation ends on 21 November.

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