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Halting site to encourage travellers to stop a while. A HALTING site for travellers is to be located in Newry within the next two years, according to the head of Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Paddy McIntyre.

The transit camp, expected to accommodate up to 12 caravans is intended to put an end to illegal encampments within the city. The initiative was announced by Mr McIntyre at the launch of a report on the needs of the traveller community, at Newry town hall last Wednesday.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McIntyre said the Executive has carried out feasibility studies on 81 sites in the southern area in the last 18 months.

He said a number of locations had been in the Newry area but would not comment on the number or location of proposed sites in the city. "A huge problem is the sensitivity and attitudes which councils and public representatives can face on what can be a contentious issue," he said.

"The problem is that no-body wants the sites located in their areas," he explained. "But they need to be relatively central to the city or travellers will not use them. People need to remain open minded and realise that if illegal encampments they will have to be flexible about the location."

He was keen to point out that most sites had been ruled out due to planning regulations and zoning problems.

When completed the site is expected to be placed under the control of Newry and Mourne District Council.

"They [travellers] may only stay for one night or two nights, but the site will be well managed and travellers will be paying for it," added Mr McIntyre.

"We have seen in other areas that, where this facility is provided it is well run and well looked after with minimal disruption from its tenants."

Kathleen Sheridan, chairperson of Breshan Munia Travellers Needs Group, said the Housing Executive had realised the Travelling community had needs which must be met.

"They need somewhere they can stay on their way through Newry," she said. "It is becoming increasingly difficult for travellers to park up at the side of a road even for a few minutes without complaints being made about them."

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