CALLS have been made for a fresh review of potential sites for Gypsy and Traveller encampments now the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has been formed.

With the holiday season under way and more Traveller groups setting up camp on public land without permission, concerns have re-surfaced about the lack of permanent or transit sites in the conurbation.

Creekmoor councillor Judy Butt, who has been visiting a group of Travellers that set up camp at the park and ride site recently, said she had written to BCP Council’s chief executive, Graham Farrant, about the issue.

She is proposing the council applies for a pre-emptive injunction to protect the three towns from unauthorised encampments while a new transit site is created.

Harlow Council was granted an interim injunction in 2015, which banned more than 30 Travellers from 320 sites. The injunction was made final in the same year and extended in 2017.

Cllr Butt said: “We can apply for a pre-emptive injunction for the conurbation as long as we have the evidence that Traveller encampments are having a negative effect on the area as a tourist destination.

“At the same time as the injunction, the council would need to solve the issue of a dedicated transit site for the Travellers. If we provide a nice transit site for them, they will take pride in it. The Travellers at Creekmoor have been keeping the area tidy are being very reasonable on this occasion.

“I’m urging strongly that a Traveller site is provided under the new BCP Council. There needs to be a determined effort for a proper review of all the available sites. It’s not going to happen in Poole, but over at Hurn there are spaces. A substantial area could be sectioned off with facilities provided, but we need to start that conversation.”

The last consultation on proposed Gypsy and Traveller sites to take place in Dorset was in 2014 and only included the areas of East Dorset, North Dorset and West Dorset.

At the time all Dorset councils, including Bournemouth and Poole, were working together to prepare a county-wide development plan document for Gypsy and Traveller sites.

As part of this, an independent accommodation assessment was carried out in 2017 to identify the need for additional pitches for Dorset’s Gypsy and Traveller population up until 2036. It found that 15 additional pitches were needed for known Gypsy and Traveller households, and up to 61 for unknown households.

It also assessed the need for transit sites but found ‘no further provision was needed at present’ due to temporary sites at Tarrant Hinton in north Dorset and Piddlehinton in west Dorset.

Mark Axford, interim head of planning at BCP Council, said a decision was needed on how the Gypsy and Traveller Sites Plan would progress following the formation of the two new authorities in Dorset.

“As the plan has been progressed to date as a joint plan covering all Dorset it will be for the new BCP Council and Dorset Council to make a decision on how the plan progresses and this will be done in due course.

“The plan’s preparation has been overseen by the county-wide strategic planning forum, however with the establishment of the two new councils there is now a need to decide the mechanism to take forward the plan and consider an appropriate timetable.”

Betty Smith Billington, of Dorset-based Gypsy and Traveller campaign charity Kushti Bok, said Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch were “lacking in their duty to provide sites”.

“Unless the new council provides enough transit sites for Gypsies we will always have this problem.

“I do think it’s something the council needs to look at again. The majority of Travellers that come into the town are law-abiding, but they’re tarred with the same brush before they’ve even entered the area.”

She said a negotiated stopping arrangement introduced in Leeds had “saved the council thousands of pounds” in legal and clear-up fees.

Negotiated stopping is an agreement between councils and Gypsy and Traveller groups, which allows caravans to be sited on certain areas of land for an agreed short-term period.

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