Thanet council Cabinet members have agreed a £100,000 budget for the continued provision of showers, toilets and utilities and for legal costs associated with the temporary Traveller site on Ramsgate Port.
The spend will be transferred from the council’s general fund to the community safety budget. It makes a total estimated spend on the facilities this financial year of £150,000.
The funds were agreed as part of a budget monitoring report to Cabinet members this evening (December 15).
The Pavee families have been based at the port since June 2021. Thanet District Council originally attended Magistrates’ Court in May 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 magistrates’ court decision was made due to poor health of some members of the group, including a pregnant woman and a child under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital.
A Section 77 eviction notice was again issued to the families in October 2021. The Gypsy and Taveller Coalition say this eviction notice was served just days after the death of a two day old baby amongst the group,
Thanet council said it served the notice on some of the families due to a ‘new group’ moving onto the site without authorisation and displaying ‘antisocial behaviour.”
This led to a bid for a Judicial Review hearing by Pavee families against Thanet council but, in July this year, the application was rejected by the High Court.
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.
There are two stages to a Judicial Review application. The first stage is for the application for permission to be considered and this was the one refused. The group then requested the application be considered at a hearing and this has been put to the Court of Appeal.
The families have been supported by members of Ramsgate town, district and county councils and by the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition, particularly with calls to improve facilities after complaints that bins and portable loos were left unemptied for weeks at a time and electric and water supplies were cut off. The site is exposed to the elements and several adults and children became ill with a two year old and a 16 year old taken into hospital with gastric infections.
The families are currently still at the port although the site is now considered to be an unauthorised encampment.
‘Continue to provide’
A spokesperson for Thanet District Council said: “There is no court order in place that requires the council to provide a stopping place for the Travellers who are currently staying at the Port of Ramsgate, in an unauthorised encampment.
“The Travellers have made an application for a Judicial Review of the decision made on 28 September 2021 to evict them. We are currently waiting for the court to confirm a date for this hearing.
“We have decided that until the matter is finally determined, we’ll continue to provide adequate facilities for the two families who were originally authorised at the site.
“We are actively seeking suitable sites for gypsy and traveller families within the district and have submitted a bid for funding to the government’s Gypsy and Traveller Site Fund.”
A ‘call for sites’ for Thanet’s updated Local Plan received no response in terms of putting forward land for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.
Thanet council has applied to a £10 million government fund aimed at helping authorities 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.
A need for 7 permanent and 5 transit vehicle pitches in Thanet was identified in a study for Thanet council. Temporary tolerated pitches are when people on unauthorised encampments stay for an agreed amount of time.
The council says this means smoother enforcement is easier on those who choose 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.
Thanet currently does not have an authorised Traveller site, with the nearest being in Canterbury and Dover.
Awards from the fund have not yet been announced.