THERE were jubilant scenes at Poole’s Lighthouse Theatre after controversial applications for two traveller sites were thrown out by the borough’s planning committee.
More than 200 people had packed into the venue to hear members of the committee debate the proposed temporary stopping places at Marshes End, Creekmoor, and the smaller site at land off Broadstone Way.
After first hearing representations on behalf of residents, local businesses, and the travelling community itself – which all condemned the selection of the Marshes End site – Borough of Poole’s planning committee refused to grant permission.
Then committee members followed suit for the Broadstone Way site an hour later.
Speaking to the Daily Echo afterwards, council leader Elaine Atkinson said Borough of Poole must still press on to find alternative sites within the town, or face more summers of escalating tension between residents and the travelling community.
She added: “My reaction to the committee’s decision is that this is democracy, this is how it works, democracy in action.
“From the beginning of the proposal to look at these potential temporary stopping places, we always knew that they may not go through the planning committee.
“Indeed, I have strongly suggested that the place for the decision to be made was at the planning committee.”
Meanwhile, Creekmoor ward councillor Judy Butt, who was sacked from her cabinet position after refusing to back the borough’s stance on the Marshes End site, said she was delighted with the result.
Cllr Butt explained: “The committee really did interrogate on the issues and came up with the answer that was right. We now need to work to find a permanent site.”
Fellow ward councillor Les Burden, who spoke against the application alongside his Creekmoor ward councillor colleagues, said: “Common sense has prevailed.”
The two separate proposals refused were for 12 pitches at Marshes End, Creekmoor, and four pitches at land north of the B&Q car park, Broadstone Way.
Officials, including Dorset Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill, have argued that by having designated temporary stopping places within the borough, they hoped to avoid a repeat a last summer that saw a number of unauthorised encampments encroach on the town’s parks and open spaces.
Dorset Police say they would be able to move on unauthorised encampments more swiftly if the borough had designated stopping sites to direct travellers to.
Following yesterday’s ruling, Borough of Poole deputy leader Cllr Mike White said: “In terms of temporary stopping places, I think we will now struggle to find any alternative sites in Poole.
“I don’t think we’ll find another possible site because we’ve been through a process starting with 90 sites across Poole and narrowed it down to these two.”
Cllr White said the council must now concentrate on working towards a permanent transit site outside of the borough.
Creekmoor resident Roger Wommacott, aged 65, said: “I am very pleased with the result. I was a bit dubious about the ways of this council and thought they may wrangle this in their favour, so it is good to see due process and justice has prevailed.”
'Council should consult more with gypsy and travelling communities'
GYPSY Council member Joseph Jones, who has lobbied government on traveller issues for more than 40 years, says Poole’s temporary stopping site saga highlights the prejudices faced by the travelling community.
Mr Jones, who officially spoke against the Marshes End site at the planning meeting, caught up with the Daily Echo afterwards.
He said: “I’m happy with the result, but what I would like to see now is for the council to consult more with the local gypsy and travelling communities.
“Stop treating us like mushrooms – keeping us in the dark and feeding us on...well you know what.
“This whole thing has highlighted the prejudices people have, all because of a small percentage of our population. One percent misbehaves, the other 99 per cent gets the blame as well.”
Mr Jones stressed that members of the travelling community should be treated like human beings.
“Basically, we are economic migrants. We move for economic reasons, going where the work is. And there are one million of us in the country, not the 300,000 figure that’s been used since 1959.
“Our children have the same aspirations as any other children. The health members of our community go out and provide for everyone – the youngsters and the elderly.
“We are being failed by policy. Basically central government passes down to local authorities, and these local authorities fail to provide, fail to talk to our communities.
“We have the same aspirations as everyone else, we just want to be respected.”
Crime Commissioner: Official site is neccessary so police can take fast action
LAST summer was generally regarded one of the worst for traveller incursions, with Bournemouth, Poole and other parts of Dorset all affected by illegal encampments.
Bournemouth and Poole council officers spent much of the summer pursuing travellers who set up short-term camps in car parks, open spaces and play areas.
In Bournemouth, there were camps at Slades Farm, Pelhams Park, Turbary Common and West Howe.
There was also a camp at West Parley in Dorset.
In most of these cases, residents expressed concerns about the illegal camps and councils were forced to go to court and obtain an eviction order, only for the travellers to move just before this took effect.
Bournemouth council leader John Beesley has ruled out the prospect of finding a suitable site anywhere in the borough, saying the only land available was in the green belt.
But Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has warned police will only be able to take swift action against unauthorised camps if there is an official site.