Travellers have set up at Ramsgate’s Marina Esplanade car park

The group at the seafront car park

A Travellers group has set up at the Marina Esplanade car park in Ramsgate.

Around six caravans plus cars and vans  arrived at the eastern undercliff site this evening (August 27).

It brings the total unauthorised camps in Thanet this year to above 40. The most recent were at Royal Esplanade at the Westcliff, where the group were onsite for around three weeks, and then at Joss Bay last week where more than a dozen caravans currently remain.

Joss Bay photo Ruth Harries

The site is owned by Thanet council and officers will need to carry out welfare and vehicle checks before issuing a notice to leave if required.

At a neighbouhood engagement meeting this month Sergeant Stephen Moat, from Kent Police, said this year’s incursions had “increased dramatically.”

He told residents at the meeting that police will gather registrations from each new encampment but a notice to leave could sometimes leave officers and Thanet council “chasing our own tails.”

He added: “There can be a court order to evict but groups might just go 100 yards up the road and stop on private land.”

Other actions taken by Thanet council alongside the legal process of issuing notice to quit include gathering details and checking them against TDC records to then issue a Community Protection Warning Notice, or Community Protection Notice if a warning has previously been served.

If taken to prosecution, any equipment or vehicles used in the breach of a notice can be seized. In one week during June 48  warnings were served on unauthorised encampments.

Negotiated Stopping

A recent article in the Travellers Times has suggested unauthorised camps could be dealt with under a ‘Negotiated Stopping’ scheme, which the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange says reduces costs, community tensions and conflict

The Traveller Times says the solution has been used by Leeds City Council for a number of years, saving  the council and police close to £250,000 a year in legal and clean up fees.

‘Negotiated Stopping’ involves a contract between mobile Travellers and councils that allow the Travellers to camp for up to three months on specified areas of vacant council land. The authority would usually agree to provide household rubbish disposal and sanitation. In return, the Gypsies and Travellers sign a contract agreeing to keep the area clean and to move off at the end of the agreed period.

The council also directs Travellers away from contentious public spaces – like playing fields – and onto more appropriate council land in return for a longer stay for the Travellers involved.

Read here: County councillor call for authorised Travellers’ site as Thanet council visits 26th ‘illegal’ camp this year

Read here: Travellers Times backs Negotiated Stopping scheme