Proposals for temporary tolerated Traveller sites at Potten Street car park at St Nicholas and land at Shottendane Road in Margate are expected to be put on hold.
Thanet council is now expected to launch a ‘call for sites’ through its Local Plan review which will mean privately owned land, as well as plots owned by the authority, could be put forward to be considered for the use instead.
In December approval was given for further work to assess Potten Street in St Nicholas-at-Wade, Tivoli Brook in Margate and Ramsgate Port for use as temporary tolerated stopping sites.
But both Ramsgate Port and Tivoli Brook were then removed from the plans and land off Shottendane Road was added without any meeting by the working group responsible for assessing the sites.
Tivoli Brook was removed due to “the potential commercial development and the opportunity it creates for income generation and employment,” while Ramsgate Port was scrapped from the proposals because it is “presently undergoing a feasibility study and the proposed area is in use for the storage of cars and is returning a revenue, it is also an industrialised area and not suited to families and young children.”
Temporary tolerated pitches are when unauthorised encampments stay for an agreed amount of time. The council says this means smoother enforcement is easier 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.
He also launched a petition against both proposals, saying the sites would put those staying there in danger.
Now Cabinet members at Thanet council are expected to agree to the open call when they meet on September 17.
Cllr Pugh said: “It appears from the published agenda for Cabinet that TDC have decided to drop the proposals for temporary traveller sites at Potten Street car park and land at Shottendane Road.
“TDC will now put to Cabinet a call for sites to landowners to be included in the Local Plan Review for a permanent site. This is a suggestion that I made some weeks ago and I am delighted that TDC have taken this decision. This process needs to be transparent and completely open to scrutiny from the public and the Local Plan Review will allow this to happen.
“This is a relief for residents in St Nicholas at Wade and Garlinge and for the Traveller community I’m sure, who will not be required to stay at an unsafe site. The proposals were flawed from the beginning and risked the misuse of public money through public consultations when Thanet District Council already knew the considerable opposition from residents.
“I have no doubt that the petition went some way to helping TDC realise that the two sites were not the best options.
“If agreed by Cabinet next week, I will be watching closely to see which land is offered for this purpose to ensure that we do not have a repeat of this.”
‘Robust engagement process’
A report to Cabinet members says: “Over the last six months, especially considering the impact of the global pandemic there has been a significant amount of change and as part of this the Council is reviewing how it delivers services in the future and how it can maximise the benefits of revenue opportunity from existing assets, which include some potential sites previously identified for use.
“There has been significant interest from stakeholders and local residents regarding a temporary tolerated site including commentary on suitability of sites, level of need and other locations. In order to capture this information and understand the views of all those with an interest in temporary stopping sites a robust engagement process is required.
“The identification of possible temporary stopping sites has previously been restricted to land owned by Thanet District Council, a change in process has the potential to widen the scope for other sites to be identified.
“The Local Plan has recently been adopted and is now subject to a review process. Part of this process has a defined consultation and the ability to place a general call to landowners to put forward sites for specific uses.”
Members of the Traveller and Gypsy community will be involved in the call for sites process, says the report.
Speaking of the temporary pitch proposals Joseph Jones, of the Gypsy Council, previously told The Isle of Thanet News: “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 aim is to use 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.
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 more than 55 last year.
Thanet council deputy leader Helen Whitehead, who is also responsible for housing strategies, previously said: “We have both a legal and a moral duty to plan for temporary tolerated sites, and it is an area of high priority.
“All of our community deserves appropriate housing, and these sites have been put forward for consideration; any necessary works to sites will be fully factored in to any decisions in relation to sites. Communities and interested parties are more than welcome to contact me, as is Councillor Pugh.
“I welcome any feedback in relation to the sites. I can be contacted at email@example.com “