The inability to force travellers off public land and into a designated site has frustrated a city councillor who spent years trying to find a solution to the long-standing issue.
Cllr John Fox said he did not understand why neither the police nor the city council are able to move unauthorised encampments to an Emergency Stopping Place (ESP) at Clay Lane at the rear of the Dogsthorpe Triangle.
Cllr Fox chaired a cross-party working group which chose Clay Lane as an ESP after a search of more than two years. However, the issue has not gone away with travellers moving onto land in Home Pastures near Werrington on Wednesday last week before departing two days later.
Cllr Fox’s comments, which were directed at all unauthorised encampments and not specifically travellers, followed the Peterborough Telegraph asking police whether it can move travellers to the ESP.
A police spokeswoman said: “The police do have the power to move traveller encampments, however, there are conditions associated with this power.
“While an ‘Emergency Stopping Place’ may exist in Peterborough we do not have the power to tell the travellers where to go. However, in the first instance the local authority usually deal with the eviction when the travellers are on public land.”
A council spokeswoman said the ESP is routinely offered as temporary accommodation, but travellers are not moved onto the site.
Cllr Fox said: “I don’t understand it. We were originally asked when we formed the working group to find land for an Emergency Stopping Place to give police powers to move unauthorised encampments. Now they are saying they can’t move them there.
“It defeats the whole object. What is the solution? Because there has to be a solution. It’s frustrating.”
Cllr Fox also wants to see the law changed so entering and occupying land without consent is a criminal offence.
Currently the ESP can house up to 12 caravans for a maximum of two weeks and is available all year round.
In March last year the ruling Conservatives put on hold trying to find new traveller sites despite being advised to do so by a working group set up. Instead, it decided to upgrade its existing ESP so it could be used for longer.
The council spokeswoman said the authority is “in the process of planning upgrades to the site, including security barriers and fencing, later this year.” Asked about looking for other long-term solutions, she said: “There are already a number of options, including permanent sites at Oxney Road and Norwood Lane.
“We have no plans at present to provide any future permanent sites.”