SIX potential new Gypsy and traveller sites have been identified by a Tees council.

Stockton Borough Council has to identify space for at least 26 pitches under Government rules and a consultation exercise has been planned.

Councillor Bob Cook, leader of the council, said the authority was braced for “lots of comments and reaction” but stressed the authority had no choice but to identify the land.

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The six areas so far identified for possible Gypsy sites are: land off Yarm Back Lane, Hartburn; Frederick Street in Stockton town centre; land between Bowesfield Crescent and the River Tees, Stockton; Mill Lane, Billingham; Eltham Crescent, Thornaby and land between the Tees and Thornaby Road, in Thornaby. The Hartburn land is privately owned, the others areas are owned by the council.

Coun Cook, Labour, said the current thinking was to have only one average-sized site and others with just one or two pitches.

He also stressed the council was not planning to actually build and run a site.

Instead it would be up to a private developer or Gypsies themselves to create one if planning permission was eventually granted. The council’s responsibility is simply to designate areas where a site could be created.

“We don’t want a giant one,” he said. “We’re thinking more of an average sized one and one or two pitches here and one or two there.

“This is something we have to do under the local plan. We’ve got to do it, there’s no choice. All councils have to do this.”

A council report, to be considered by Stockton council’s cabinet committee in Stockton Central Library on Wednesday, January 15 at 5pm, explained that if the council didn’t have enough areas designated for Gypsy use, the council’s planning committee would lose much control of where the sites could be built if private applications were submitted.

A public consultation exercise is scheduled to begin on Monday, February 3 until Monday, March 17.

Former council leader, Ken Lupton, Conservative, has one of the potential sites in his Hartburn ward. He said: “It’s very difficult. The Government are requiring this and we’ve got to find somewhere. I would expect local resistance and I will investigate and circulate information in the ward.”

The council does own one Gypsy site with 28 pitches on Bowesfield Lane and there are smaller, private ones on Darlington Back Lane and in nearby Maltby.