A Traveller group which set up at the council-owned car park at the rear of Dreamland last night (October 24) has been issued with notice to leave. Around eight caravans are currently on the site.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “There is an unauthorised encampment at the Dreamland Car Park, Margate. Officers from our Community Safety team have visited the site to conduct the necessary welfare checks and issued a Section 77 notice which requires them to leave the land forthwith.”
The eviction comes at the same time as a bid to create an authorised site at land by Minster Services,.
Representatives of Blinkbox, which has directors in Canterbury and Ramsgate, and Joseph Jones of the Gypsy Council have been in discussions about the site.
A pre-application meeting took place with Thanet council earlier this week.
Mr Jones (pictured), 67, says the aim is for the site to accommodate between nine and 15 vans, through three permanent and seven transient pitches, with associated facilities. The arrangement will be to take a 99 year lease on the land. It is hoped a decision on the planning application will be made in December.
He said: “There were some concerns about it being in a country area but this is a brownfield site and there is housing and a Costa that were built on greenfield areas.
“What we are proposing will not cost the taxpayer a penny. We have people in housing who do not want to be in housing and since 1968 Thanet has not provided a site.”
Mr Jones says new site provision is necessary but councils have failed in the duty to provide this.
A Thanet council working group has been set up to investigate the issue and look at areas including Traveller accommodation, security measures and increased enforcement at high risk areas.
An update from the council’s Travellers Review sub committee is due on November 19.
But Mr Jones says it is time for Gypsy and Traveller communities to take on the task themselves.
‘Our children have aspirations’
“There have been increasing incursions and Thanet is becoming more popular as an area. We are pushed from pillar to post, we have kids that have taken wives and have got children and they are not allowed to stop on public sites. We can’t get planning to provide sites, even when we are asking for extended family plots, so get left with no alternative but to stop in public and private spaces.
“These people are homeless, they have got to have somewhere to stop. Yes, they live in caravans but there is this idea that Travellers and Gypsies have to be transient. We were transient when we worked alongside housewives and Londoners moving from farm to farm and picking as needed. But this has been taken over by other itinerant peoples.
“It is not about travelling, it is about continuing our culture, our language, our respect for our elders. We have a heirachy and there are very strict rules. In that way we do not want to be like everyone else but in other ways we are no different from other people, our children have the same aspirations but they are not being given the same opportunities to go to school, use sports facilities. Our children want to have friends and to be accepted. They want to go to school, they want to go to university.
“Local provision is down to councils but they have failed and so it is time we provide it for ourselves and stop waiting around for councils to do it.”
Mr Jones says sites currently in Kent are well-managed and communities are integrated through children going to local schools and families using local shops and businesses. In Maidstone the Gypsy Council has worked on building a school and community centre.
He said: “People naturally integrate through using the shops and schools. People get to know each other.”
He said issues currently arise due to communities not being familiar with each other, saying: “If you are met by hostility then you will also be hostile. No one knows each other and our people aren;t there long enough for people to get to know them.
“Councillors and politicians also cause trouble for their own political gain, they need to remember they are civil servants for all members of the public.”
Mr Jones acknowledged complaints of rubbish and flytipping but added: “Councils have powers to deal with this, they have fly-tipping powers but choose not to use them and that is as much a thorn in our side as it is for anyone else.
“Also, sometimes there is no time to clear up if people are being evicted, police and bailiffs turn up and they have to leave.”
Mr Jones, who works with government via the Department for Communties and has been involved in campaigning since 1972, says Brexit has divided the country and seen an increase in ‘hatefulness; towards many minority groups. He is currently working with broadcasters to look at how all minority and disability groups are portrayed in the media in an effort to eradicate that tide of hate.
Thanet council doesn’t currently have Gypsy and Traveller provision. However, this has come under scrutiny following a huge rise in incursions from just two in 2013 to more than 50 last year and more than 45 this year.
The unauthorised pitches impact residents with a petition brought by people living near Jackey Bakers’ field in Ramsgate for increased security being successful last year. A similar plea was presented by residents at Dane Valley.
Businesses in Margate were also affected in August when disturbance from a ‘rogue’ group of Travellers resulted in the early closure of bars, shops and takeaways.
There is also a significant cost. Some 18 court appearances for summons and then order of removal were instigated by the council in 2018 at a cost of £1,175. A further £15,000 was spent on the work to secure Jackey Bakers.