Councillors to discuss proposal for three temporary Traveller sites in Thanet

Ramsgate Port is one of the proposed sites

Temporary “tolerated sites” for Travellers could be created at the former education space at Tivoli Brooks, Margate; Ramsgate Port car park and Potten Street car park in St Nicholas-at-Wade.

The aim would be to use the sites on a rotation basis to alleviate the issue of unauthorised camps on the isle.

Thanet currently does not have an authorised Traveller site, with the nearest being in Canterbury and Dover.

An action plan is being developed by Thanet council and a working group has been investigating the issue, looking at areas including Traveller accommodation, security measures and increased enforcement at high risk areas.

An update from the council’s Travellers Review sub committee, due to be discussed by councillors on November 19, says work to identify sites resulted in five suggestions.

The Tivoli, Potten Street and Port proposals have been earmarked as the preferred options.

Rise in unauthorised camps

Unauthorised encampments at sites including Dane Valley, Marina Esplanade, Government Acre and the car park by Dreamland have risen sharply from two in 2013 to 55 last year and 53 so far this year.

A report to councillors says: “Since 2018, numerous incursions in Thanet have been as a result of two family groups. These families whilst comprising of individually small groups (6-8 caravans) are a draw to other more transient groups meaning that incursions vary from 5-6 vehicles to in excess of 20. This group is linked to the 50+ incursions within the district in 2018 and most of the incursions in 2019.”

According to the report some 70 locations across Thanet have been assessed as vulnerable to vehicle based unauthorised encampments.

Proposed measures

Photo Swift Aerial Photography

A programme of additional security measures for locations is under discussion but the council says this will take several years to put into action.

A district wide Public Space Protection Order is being considered across foreshore and cliff top locations and legal advice has been sought as to the use of the current Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) PSPO covering Margate and Ramsgate town centres to tackle the issue of waste being dumped at sites.

Thanet council says the exact cost of clearing sites is not possible to establish as it takes place as part of everyday workloads, however a separate clearance undertaken at Dreamland car park this year cost £560.

Legal advice has also been sought as to the use of existing bye laws for overnight camping in specific parts of the district.

‘Tolerated’ pitches’

A need for 7 permanent and 5 transit vehicle pitches in Thanet has also been identified. Temporary tolerated pitches – where unauthorised encampments stay for an agreed amount of time – are currently being examined.

The report to councillors says: “This enables smoother enforcement on those unauthorised encampments which chose to ignore the direction and stay on other land. A temporary tolerated site also allows easier management of amenities such as waste collection and toilet provision, reducing the impact on the local area. A temporary tolerated site will also provide provision whilst working on longer term resolutions to fill the required allocation. Immediate planning permission would also not be required for a temporary tolerated site due to short term use.”

The cost of implementing the sites is yet to be established. Each site has been discussed by the Traveller review group with representations from the KCC Gypsy and Traveller liaison team. Representatives of Traveller communities in the district were also invited to attend the meetings but were unable to do so.

It is expected that further work will be carried out to assess the feasibility and cost of the three temporary tolerated sites.

Minster services

There is also 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.

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.

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.”

Speaking of the temporary pitch proposals Mr Jones added: “It’s nice to see a positive move towards a responsibility to provide, but I still feel there is room for a permanent site too. In Leeds, Yorkshire, they have a tolerated site policy, well tried and tested and it’s good that TDC are looking in that direction.”

The council report will be discussed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the council offices in Margate from 7pm on Tuesday (November 19).