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Angry scenes as travellers' sites get Poole Council backing
THERE were angry scenes at the Civic Centre on Monday night as around 200 people attempted to access an emergency Borough of Poole meeting, which ended with the council backing proposals for two controversial traveller sites.
Security guards were forced to shepherd some people from the main chamber before the meeting had even started, amid safety concerns about the numbers trying to attend.
When the meeting finally got underway, Poole Mayor Phil Eades threatened to adjourn it on several occasions, as councillors endured sporadic barracking by some of the 150 residents who packed-out the chamber.
It was clear, from the loud applause when any councillor spoke against the plans, that the overwhelming number of people gathered were opposed to the idea of the two temporary stopping sites for gypsies and travellers.
But after the motion was voted through, Borough of Poole deputy leader Cllr Mike White, said: "Poole experiences a number of unauthorised encampments each year which do cause public concern.
"Therefore, we need to effectively manage the situation and meet the needs of both our local communities and the travellers."
The proposal was carried with 23 members voting in favour, 12 against and two abstentions. The extraordinary meeting was called after it emerged, last year, that by having a designated temporary stopping site for gypsies and travellers, the council could find it quicker and easier to disperse unauthorised encampments from Poole's public places.
This followed a summer of escalating traveller activity across Poole, which caused heightened tensions locally and left the borough facing a legal and clean-up bill topping thousands of pounds.
Last night, councillors were asked to approve the two sites, at Marshes End, Creekmoor, and land north of the B&Q car park, Broadstone Way, and to authorise a planning application to enable the borough to introduce temporary stopping places by this summer.
There was even an amendment, tabled by councillor John Rampton, calling for the 'status quo' of gypsy and traveller provision in Poole to be maintained. This amendment was not fully backed by council.
Cllr Judy Butt, ward member for Creekmoor, said the people she represents were uneasy about three issues - the lack of consultation, the lack of proper consideration about the costs, and that the land at Creekmoor is unfit for habitation.
She added: "The funds could be better used. There are no NIMBYs in Creekmoor, that is what we are being accused of."
Meanwhile, Cllr Xena Dion said: "To say we haven't gone through public consultation is wrong. We are here today because of public opinion."
Council leader Elaine Atkinson said the borough needed somewhere to be used as a stopping site.
"Last summer we had many representations calling for something to be done about it," she added.
And Cllr White said: "Doing nothing is ducking the issue, we need to press ahead."
Poole's cabinet had deferred the contentious decision to full council earlier this month.
The council estimates it will cost £175,000 to construct the site at Marshes End, and up to £70,000 at Broadstone Way.
An additional £35,000 has been set aside to meet the transit camps' projected annual running costs.
Tonight's Civic Centre meeting came after a delegation from Poole travelled to Whitehall to lobby Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis over the transit site issue.
Cllr White said the borough was keen to share a site with its neighbouring authorities, Bournemouth and Dorset County Council. However, it is understood any shared site would require a change in current legislation.
The Creekmoor site will have 27 pitches, while the Broadstone Way site will have an additional four.
Police say if the council provides a transit site, any travellers moving onto Poole's public open spaces could be evicted within 24-hours or have their cars and caravans impounded if they fail to comply with the eviction notice.
Last October Borough of Poole held an impromptu summit to try to find solutions to the perceived traveller problem, when it was agreed to explore the transit site option.
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