TRAVELLERS have established two camps in Poole, in what some residents fear could be just the start of another summer of heightened tensions across the borough.
News of the two unauthorised encampments quickly spread to neighbouring Bournemouth Council who immediately stepped-up monitoring of their vulnerable open spaces.
They also beefed-up security at Kings Park to stop “unauthorised camps and maintain access for residents.”
Numerous caravans and vans were spotted driving around Poole on Sunday night. Eventually around ten vehicles were driven onto Hatchard’s Field, Rossmore Road, with another five caravans reported at Baiter Park shortly afterwards.
Borough of Poole officers, who visited both sites yesterday, have been told by those present that they intend to only stay for a short time.
Dorset Police confirmed they received a number of calls, between 6-8pm on Sunday evening, and that four caravans and six vans moved onto the recreation ground at Rossmore, which is next to a children’s play area.
Peter Haikin, Regulatory Services Manager, Borough of Poole, said: “We currently have two unauthorised encampments in Poole. Four caravans and associated vehicles arrived at Hatchards Field play area, Rossmore Road last night (Sunday). Due to the close proximity to the children’s play area, we have commenced legal proceedings to evict the travellers from this site as soon as possible.
“A further two caravans and two motorhomes arrived at Baiter car park today (Monday). We visited the site during the morning and are currently carrying out welfare and health checks before we take legal action.
“We are continuing to monitor these sites to minimise the impact on local residents but we are unable to move these travellers to the new temporary transit site at Piddlehinton as this is outside our boundary.
"Without a transit site or temporary stopping place available in Poole the police are unable to direct travellers to use these alternative sites. In the meantime however, we will do everything within the current powers available to deal with unauthorised encampments as quickly as possible.”
Some neighbours are worried the camp could grow, and that tensions will be heightened while the travellers remain. However, others said the travellers had kept themselves to themselves and caused no problems so far.
When the Daily Echo approached the travellers we were welcomed and politely told “no comment” by one of their party.
Borough of Poole voted last month to spend up to £231,000 to defend six of its most vulnerable spaces against traveller incursions.
This vote took place after controversial plans to transform land at Marshes End, Creekmoor, and off Broadstone Way, into temporary traveller stopping sites crumbled at the planning committee stage.
Last summer was punctuated by a number of unauthorised traveller encampments at many of Poole’s public open spaces, including Branksome Recreation Ground, Baiter and Whitecliff Park.
On the latest Hatchard’s Field encampment, Alderney ward councillor Tony Trent said: “Sadly the lack of a temporary stopping place has claimed a new victim. This is an area that has not suffered invasion for over the last seven years, though it would otherwise meet the criteria for protection.
“This is one of several sites in Poole that are vulnerable to invasion, and there will always be sites that miss out on protection.
“With the TSP that was proposed in place in place, this encampment could have been moved within 24-hours. Unlike the site at Marshes End, this is at the back of people’s houses and near a well enjoyed play area and walking field.”
Residents' voice concerns
Neighbours have voiced concerns about the two encampments at Baiter Park and Hatchard’s Field.
Five caravans in the public car park off Catalina Drive, close to Poole Quay, are believed to have been driven in overnight.
Ray Arrowsmith, 70, who lives opposite, said: “I don’t think that they have the right to be here, do they? If I’m honest, I’m not that happy about them being here.
“My wife saw the police here last night, but they did not do anything. At least they are aware they are here.
“There were dozens of them here at Baiter last summer, but I will say that we didn’t have any trouble.”
Another 73-year-old Baiter resident, who asked not be named, said: “They don’t pay rates, or for parking, so why should we have to pay for them? They leave rubbish here, which included some rusty cars a couple of years ago. If it gets really bad here, we’re going to have to ask for a rebate on our council tax. We’re paying for the views here and they are parked in the way.”
Meanwhile, at Hatchard’s Field, neighbour Terry Baker says the encampment is the first one he’s seen on the recreation ground across the road for 40 years.
The pensioner added: “We’ve had a nice summer so far, and let’s hope this isn’t the start of something regular. To be fair, we’ve had no problems with them so far, so let just wait and see.
A Rossmore business owner, who asked not to be named, said: “Problems will all depend on how long they stay on site and if any more of them arrive, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to get on with things.”
Another neighbour stormed: “It seems there’s one law for them and another for everyone else.
“I think it is disgusting, it really is. They don’t pay council tax, nothing. It’s all of us lot that have to pay for any mess they cause. It is not right. Hopefully this won’t be the start of another summer of problems.”
Fears raised over incursions after proposed transit sites rejected
CONCERNS were raised earlier this year after Borough of Poole’s planning committee ruled against applications for two temporary traveller stopping sites within the town.
Officials, including Dorset Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill, had argued that by having designated stopping sites, they hoped to avoid a repeat of last summer that saw a number of unauthorised encampments encroach on Poole’s parks and open spaces.
Dorset Police said they would have been able to move on unauthorised encampments more swiftly if the borough had designated stopping sites to direct travellers to.
But plans to establish the sites at Marshes End, Creekmoor, and at land off Broadstone Way, were met by a wall a opposition – particularly from ward councillors and local residents.
The proposals failed to make it through the council’s planning committee, which had to be convened at Poole’s Lighthouse Theatre because of the large numbers of residents wanting to attend.
Speaking to the Daily Echo afterwards, council leader Elaine Atkinson said the borough must still press on to find alternatives sites within the town, or face more summers of escalating tension between residents and the travelling community.
Other Poole residents warned the victory for Marshes End and Broadstone Way would almost definitely spell trouble for the borough’s parks and opens spaces in the coming months.
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