Police called to Traveller group setting up at Dane Park

Police have attended the site Photo Roy Foord

Police have attended Dane Park this afternoon (May 31) after reports of a large Traveller group arriving on site.

People travelling in around 12-14 vans have arrived on the green. There were also reports of a small encampment at Albion Street car park in Broadstairs although this has now been vacated.

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.

The car park has been vacated although some rubbish now needs clearing Photo Aram Rawf

Government guidelines are that to minimise risk during the national coronavirus emergency, unauthorised encampments should not be evicted.

Local authorities are encouraged to adopt a negotiated stopping approach for unauthorised encampments instead.

Photo Ken Wraight

Ward councillor Gary Taylor is currently at the park and has been speaking to the group.

He said: “One of the children has been tested positive for Covid and I have seen the letter saying they all have to isolate. They have travelled from Hampshire.”

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Thanet District Council is aware of an unauthorised encampment at Dane Park. Officers are visiting the site to undertake welfare checks as required. If welfare needs are identified then support will be offered.  We would not comment on or share personal information relating to any member of the group.

“In line with Government guidelines, we ceased evictions of unauthorised encampments during the coronavirus pandemic due to welfare and safety concerns.”

Government guidance states: “During this unprecedented time Local Authorities have a responsibility to ensure all
communities are supported to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following the advice given by Public Health England. This includes members of Gypsy and Traveller communities.

“Some Gypsies and Travellers are particularly vulnerable and have the potential to be disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, and some will already have been asked to shield for 12 weeks due to high risk underlying health conditions.

“Social-distancing or self-isolation may be particularly challenging for members of these communities due to often confined and communal households, and restricted living conditions on many sites. In addition, we know that some families lack basic amenities including running water, adequate sanitation, and refuse disposal facilities, all of which are essential to limit the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

Police have visited the site but responsibility lays with the council Photo Roy Foord

“Many will no longer have access to places they may have relied on for water and cleaning purposes, due to closures of leisure centres, churches and petrol station toilets.

“It is for Local Authorities to determine how best to support vulnerable groups during this unprecedented period in line with their public health responsibilities.”

The Friends, Families and Travellers organisations says that in light of the known health inequalities within Gypsy and Traveller communities local authorities should take action that is based on the level of risk experienced by these groups.

Friends Families and Travellers have created guidance for people living roadside or on Traveller sites, including an audio version for people with low literacy.