COUNCIL leader Elaine Atkinson says this summer will not be a case of ‘lockdown Poole.’
She’s also balked at suggestions she should resign her position after the borough’s planning committee ruled against the temporary stopping places proposals she had backed.
“The committee’s decision is democracy at work, she told the Daily Echo.
“The council must now decide what it is going to do in terms of temporary stopping places and unauthorised encampments this year.”
Cllr Atkinson fears the borough will again experience another summer punctuated with unauthorised traveller encampments.
Last year’s increased traveller activity led to the council meeting where the idea of temporary stopping places, just one on a list of ideas to explore, was mooted.
“We will certainly have travellers this year and I was particularly keen to move to temporary stopping paces because I felt we were on the brink of some public order issues last year,” said Cllr Atkinson.
“And I don’t want to see people get hurt.
“We cannot lock Poole down because of the areas travellers come to here. Take Whitecliff – we cannot lock it down and make it inaccessible because the air ambulance lands there, the ambulances need to gain access.
“Likewise for a lot of our open spaces, but that is not to say we won’t be target hardening sensitive sites. We were already doing that anyway as part of our plans.”
Poole’s leader says the borough will continue working with Poole MP Robert Syms, who is trying to instigate legislation change to enable Poole to share an out of town permanent transit site with its local authority neighbours.
She also said: “I must stress this is only my personal view, but we’ve just had a strategic car parking review and we could look at the possibility of making one of the borough’s car parks available as a temporary stopping site this year. But, as I have stressed, this is only my personal view at the moment. It has not been put to council.”
On the Judy Butt issue – the Creekmoor ward councillor who was sacked from her cabinet position after refusing to back the cabinet’s stance on the traveller sites – Cllr Atkinson says she had no regrets.
She added: “That was not a personal decision shot from the hip. It was well thought out and taken under advice.”
Cllr Atkinson said: “Last year we had a number of unauthorised encampments and by the end of the summer it was beginning to feel like we could have some public disorder issues.
“It isn’t illegal to be a traveller and the government has no plans to outlaw being a traveller, so they have rights in law like the rest of us do. If residents don’t want to have travellers on our recreational grounds and open spaces then we have to have some other provision.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "Unless an alternative site exists, the Police cannot use their powers under Section 62A to move the travellers on.
"The powers available under Section 61 of the same Act require a very high threshold of criminality before it can be invoked and therefore, it is rarely used.
"The traveller issue has become like Groundhog Day. The travellers have nowhere to go and so they move to unauthorised sites.
"I received scores of complaints from residents demanding action, as did the Boroughs.
"I have been actively engaged with the Borough of Poole in trying to find a solution.
"I am responsible for ensuring an effective and efficient police force for Dorset.
"The Chief Constable is responsible for enforcing the law and overseeing operational policing.
"Neither roles can work properly if Parliament gives the Police two separate powers in relation to travellers, yet Dorset Police can only enforce one."