POOLE cabinet member Cllr Mike Rampton says unauthorised traveller encampments in the borough will only be stopped through a change in law.

The Borough of Poole (BOP) councillor, who is portfolio holder for the environment, made his assertion in a letter to Mike Randall, chairman of the Parkstone Bay Association.

Mr Randall had previously contacted the Daily Echo to complain of a lack of council action after Baiter Park experienced two recent unauthorised traveller encampments in recent weeks.

In an open letter to Cllr Rampton, Mr Randall called for measures to stop future incursions, such as a manually controlled gate to regulate access at Baiter.

Now, in a lengthy letter of response, Cllr Rampton has stressed: “We must be very clear about this - the only real and sustainable way to stop further encampments at Baiter or anywhere else is through legal change.”

Cllr Rampton also said BOP had made it clear that ‘target hardening’ of sites will not stop groups of travellers determined to gain access.

“It is akin to fitting a burglar alarm on a house, in that it deters casual break in, but with such tools available to travellers such as portable angle grinders and even heavy lifting plant, not even boulders nor heavy ironwork can stop groups if they are determined enough,” he explained.

The councillor goes onto say that no-one can ensure through defences that travellers will never gain access to any particular site, “short of making it into a fortress nobody wants it to be.”

Even if beefing up security measures worked at one particular location, it would result in other locations - some of them more sensitive - becoming occupied, said Cllr Rampton.

“Whilst this may be satisfactory to a local residents association chairman,” he added “councillors have to take a borough-wide view.”

Under current law, local authorities have no power to evict travellers without a court order.

The government, which is reviewing powers to tackle unauthorised traveller camps, held a recent consultation to look at what more can be done to allow local authorities, police and landowners, deal with unauthorised sites and developments. Cllr Rampton said: “BOP has made a very robust formal response to the accompanying consultation, which can be viewed on our website, and is a public document which I’m given to understand will be made public on the government consultation website.