“I can live with the rats but I can’t live with the flies. I can’t live where I can’t cook in my own home in the summer.” Julie Price has lived at Rover Way, a Traveller site near Tremorfa in Cardiff, all her life.

She is “proud of what I am, proud of how I was reared up”, but the site, she says, is in a terrible state. Other residents agree.

With Jasmine Jones, Co-ordinator of the charity, Gypsies and Traveller Wales, we walk from Mrs Price’s neat chalet to visit a group of young mums in another trailer, nearer the entrance.

We are greeted with tea and cookies as a puppy jumps up and down and a newborn is admired.

Katharine Quarmby has mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ Traveller sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England. She says the state of authorised sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal.The site on Rover Way in Cardiff

The mums are worried about the conditions in which they live and are raising their children. One says: “You can’t hang your washing out here, as it will stink. The smell will make you vomit, you can’t sit outside.”

That smell seems to come from the drains and the sewage plant next door, although it could also come from a nearby sewage outflow. They say that as soon as they put up flypaper it is black with dead flies that swarm on the site.

As we leave the mums, Jasmine Jones takes me to look around the site. Each pitch is spotless, but the entrance to the site is marred by regular flytipping.

The road beyond the site is very busy and the view is dominated by the Celsa steelworks. A red dust, thought to be from the steelworks, sticks to the caravans and cars. It has to be hosed off every day so it does not corrode the aluminium.

Katharine Quarmby has mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ Traveller sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England. She says the state of authorised sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal.Celsa Steel in Cardiff. Photo: Alex Seabrook

Jasmine Jones says: “the residents feel trapped on the site.

"The location of the current site is appalling. When the wind changes, smoke from the steelworks smells like burning rope.”

The state of authorised Traveller sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal. I mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England.

I found that 39% were within 50 metres of motorways, A roads and railway lines, refuse and recycling plants, industrial estates, sewage works, rivers, canals or the sea, with over half (54%) being within 100 metres.

In Wales, the figures were worse still, with 62% less than 50 metres from the same hazards and 86% within 100 metres - smaller than the length of the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Seven out of the 21 sites in Wales (one-third) were next to (100 metres or less) sewage, refuse or recycling centres or industrial estates; ten were within 100 metres or less of road or rail and one third near water.

The Welsh government, prompted by a network of organisations concerned both about the lack of sites and their poor location, has just been holding an inquiry into site provision.

Katharine Quarmby has mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ Traveller sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England. She says the state of authorised sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal.Rover Way site

Jones adds that Rover Way was condemned around a decade ago. What this means is that the council will not allocate significant funding to refurbish it, as its stated intention is to move residents. A site assessment looked at over 40 alternative pieces of land and one nearby has been selected, although it is also in a “very poor location”.

Many Traveller sites like Rover Way were established in the 1970’s, after the 1968 Caravan Sites Act placed a duty on councils to create sites for Britain’s nomadic people.

However, local housed people set up groups to oppose sites in residential areas. Many got pushed to the margins. Racism played a part, recalls Bill Forrester, a former chair of the National Association of Gypsy Traveller officers, saying that some of the worst bigotry he witnessed was in the south of Wales against Irish Travellers.

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In 1977, the UK Government’s Cripps Report found that over a quarter of new sites were in industrial areas, with 12% near rubbish tips.

Research funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation allowed me to explore the planning history of sites. Rover Way was described as dangerous and contaminated during a public inquiry in 1973, which nonetheless concluded that even if it was not acceptable to the ‘ordinary citizen’ it could be ‘suitable for a Gypsy encampment”.

In 1982 the City Environmental Health Officer stated that the site condition was “very bad”, and was “heavily rodent infested…I would advise you that in my opinion the condition of the site is such to be prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants”.

I also made Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) requests of 20 sites across the nations, many of them in Wales. The responses showed what can only be described as a hidden housing scandal.

Residents raised concerns about sites plagued by insects and vermin, as well as noise and dust from industry and roads. Many sites were affected by foul odours from sewage stations and businesses such as slaughterhouses.

Katharine Quarmby has mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ Traveller sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England. She says the state of authorised sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal.Horseshoes adorn a gate on the Rover Way Travellers' site

Trudy Aspinwall, team manager for the advocacy service, Traveller Ahead, which works with the communities across Wales, says: “There has been poor quality social housing in the past, but I would say sites are far worse..accountability and management are lacking”, as well as a “lack of political will” to improve sites at the local level.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “Cardiff Council is aware of the issues raised and is in constant dialogue with residents of the site to look at ways we can help alleviate concerns, this includes working with Celsa to reduce levels of dust which is impacting on all residents in the area, including the Traveller community.

"The Council is also working with partners to address any other environmental concerns, and with pest control to reduce rodent numbers. We recognise the constraints and problems posed by the Rover Way site.”

Celsa Steel did not reply to a request for comment.

Katharine Quarmby has mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ Traveller sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England. She says the state of authorised sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal.Doreen Probert

Doreen Probert, who has lived on the site all her life in a lovingly tended chalet, fears the high tides, when the rats come onto the site, and the smell from the sewers when the warmer weather comes.

It drives the residents out of their homes.

“In the summer you have got to go to a park, you don’t come back till later and then we have to close all the doors and windows and put fragrance plugs in," she says. 

Summer is here now.

Katharine Quarmby has mapped all authorised ‘socially rented’ Traveller sites over the last year, 290 in all, across Wales, as well as Scotland and England. She says the state of authorised sites throughout Britain should be a national scandal.The foreshore near the Rover Way traveller site in Cardiff

The Welsh Government was approached for comment and supplied this statement: “We know and understand that the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities can face a number of challenges, and we’re committed to working closely with them to address these concerns.

“We know that many Gypsy traveller sites are historical and will have been planned in line with site requirements in place at the time. That’s why, in our ‘Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites” guidance published in 2015, a local authority is advised to consider various factors such as suitability of land and the local environment when considering new site locations to ensure a safe and viable location can be used.”

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