THE Government has agreed to provide almost £350,000 to fund the major expansion of a York travellers’ site.

City of York Council successfully bid for the money to increase the number of pitches at its Osbaldwick site from 12 to 18.

It also wants to provide a play area and create official grazing land for horses, which it said will help it tackle the problem of tethered horses on roadside verges, which have caused a series of road accidents over the past year.

But the proposal, involving draft green belt land alongside the existing site, will still need planning permission from council planners.

Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters said it would be fiercely opposed by parish leaders in Osbaldwick, Murton, Holtby and Dunnington, who feared the expansion would lead to a worsening of existing problems in the area including antisocial behaviour, fly-tipping and crime.

He said they were also concerned that the council might seek to create even more pitches at a later stage.

He claimed Steve Waddington, the council’s assistant director of housing and community safety, told him at a meeting last week that Osbaldwick was “the only game in town”, as nowhere else in York was suitable for creating extra pitches or sites.

Mr Waddington said local authorities were legally required to identify a five-year supply of accommodation suitable for the gypsy and traveller communities and York had been considering how it could work towards delivering additional pitches.

“As part of the consultative process, I invited Coun Warters in his capacity as ward councillor to a briefing meeting, ahead of the council releasing the news of the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) endorsing our plan and allocating the city £342,000,” he said.

“Draft proposals for the site improvements will include the purchase of secure grazing land to help reduce numbers of horses being tethered on verges, as well as providing space for recreational activities.”

He said the council’s Local Plan was being drafted for 2014/15 to identify land for the additional 36 pitches York needs to provide by 2030.

Naz Parkar, of the HCA, said: “This investment is good news for York because it will help ensure that every member of the community will be able to live in the homes they want in a safe and suitable place.”