Judicial Review bid brought against Thanet council by Ramsgate Port Pavee families ‘rolled back’

Families say facilities at the port are inadequate

A Judicial Review submission lodged against Thanet council on behalf of Pavee traveller families at Ramsgate Port has been ‘rolled back’ for a full day hearing.

The review application was submitted at the end of last year on allegations of human rights breaches regarding the conditions and treatment of the families who have been living at the Port since the end of last May.

Four eviction attempts have been made by Thanet council but have not been successful.

Thanet District Council originally attended Magistrates’ Court on May 27 last year seeking an order for removal of the group from Palm Bay. This was unsuccessful on welfare grounds and the council was told by the court to make available an alternative site. Ramsgate Port was identified as being able to provide facilities whilst being outside of a residential area.

The court decision was made due to poor health of some members of the group, including a baby and a child.

The Pavee families, supported by members of Ramsgate town, district and county councils and by the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition, aim to show that Thanet council has failed to discharge its duty of care or to treat the families in line with the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.

Over the past 10 months the families say bins and  portable loos have been left unemptied for weeks at a time, electric and water supplies have been cut off, the site is exposed to the elements and several adults and children have become very ill with a two year old and a 16 year old recently taken into hospital with gastric infections.

Supporting councillors, including Karen Constantine, Becky Wing, Raushan Ara, Mike Garner and Anne-Marie Nixey, say there are fears a large scale infection could break out due to poor sanitation with just five toilets and two showers for the 70 people based there.

The review hearing was due to take place this morning (April 6) at the High Court but will now be scheduled for a full day hearing at a date to be confirmed. This is expected to be in June or July.

It is understood that an injunction to prevent eviction proceedings against the group has been extended.

In December Thanet council said facilities had been provided and officers had found no evidence of acute health needs.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The council has provided adequate facilities for two authorised families as some members had complex welfare needs. Facilities include multiple toilets, shower facilities as well as a number of rubbish bins.

“On 22 October our officers carried out another series of welfare checks with the group and found no evidence of any acute medical needs. In addition, no subsequent letters have been provided to the council which detail any medical reasons why the group should continue to stay at the site. The council is therefore under no obligation to provide facilities in these circumstances, especially as they come at a significant cost to the council.

“The Port of Ramsgate is not a suitable location for long term occupation of traveller encampments. The council is however continuing to explore various options as part of the local plan process to find a solution for traveller encampments coming to Thanet.

“These include the possibility of a permanent site where travellers could stop temporarily for short periods of time, and also family-sized plots which would allow smaller groups of caravans to stay on a longer term basis. This is an ongoing and complex process which will also require consultation.”

Bid for government funding

A ‘call for sites’ for the updated Local Plan has received no response in terms of putting forward land for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.

However, Thanet council is due to apply to a £10 million government fund announced last month to help councils provide improved transit sites and stopping places as well as permanent sites.

The aim is to give traveller families easier access to local services including healthcare, education, and employment as well as reducing the high costs of tackling unauthorised encampments.

In a council meeting on March 31 authority leader Cllr Ash Ashbee said a decision had been made to apply to the fund, by June 13 deadline.