Council has another go at finding traveller site solution in Peterborough

Recommendations on finding new traveller sites in Peterborough will not be acted upon by the city council for at least another year.

Tuesday, 21st March 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:10 am
Travellers in Bishop's Road car park previously. EMN-170102-121954009 EMN-170102-121954009

The ruling Conservatives have decided not to try and find four new sites for a minimum of 12 months despite being advised to so by a working group set up to look at the long-standing problem.

Instead, the council will seek to upgrade its existing Emergency Stopping Place on land by the Dogsthorpe Triangle so travellers can stay there for longer than the maximum allowed time of 28 days a year.

A tougher stance against illegal encampments will also be taken by both the police and the city’s Prevention and Enforcement Service, the team which combines council, police, fire service and prison staff.

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Councillor Irene Walsh, cabinet member for communities and environment capital, said the “interim arrangement” was needed because the working group had been unable to locate any new traveller sites.

The group had recommended that the council identify land for purchase and, if necessary, compulsory purchase, while it was also suggested that converting city centre parking into a traveller’s site should be considered.

Another idea put forward was to approach the Diocesan Advisory Committee - a church advisory body - about using its land, but this too has now been put on hold.

Cllr Walsh told Monday’s cabinet meeting: “The fact of the matter is no sites have been identified yet, so in that sense we’ve not really got to the final answer.

“What I would like to do is go through again the recommendations and see whether we can put in place some sort of interim arrangement. Let’s see how that interim arrangement works then reassess that against the plan we’ve put forward today.”

The cabinet heard during its meeting that some travellers do not get on so will not share a site with one another.

Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said: “One of the things that we need information on at the end of the 12 months is has that been a particular problem.”

Commenting on the cabinet’s decision, Cllr John Fox, chair of the working group, said: “It’s positive news, not only for our communities but the travellers as well. It’s a win-win situation so thank you very much.”

During the meeting, Cllr Walsh said: “This subject is one of the most difficult this council has had to grapple with.”

Cllr Fox said: “There’s not one person in this room that does not realise there’s a problem with unauthorised encampments.

“The council spends an unbelievable amount of money on protecting the community. We’ve tried our best with the ESP but we do not have enough land.

“We have to speculate to accumulate.”

On the city centre car park suggestion, he said only out of use car parks should be considered. Otherwise, he added, using a working car park would be “illogical” because the council would lose money.

Cllr John Whitby, another member of the working group, told the cabinet that a two-point approach was needing. The first was to locate new traveller sites, following which the council should then take a “zero tolerance approach” against illegal encampments.

He added: “Travellers who want to be here who use our sites, pay the fee, leave them in a decent condition and go away again, I would welcome.”