A meeting will take place between The Gypsy and Traveller Coalition and the interim CEO of Thanet council, plus relevant councillors and officers, over the ongoing situation of Pavee families staying at Ramsgate Port.
The extended family has been at the Port since June 2021. During that time there has been a Thanet council eviction attempt, a Judicial Review bid which is ongoing, numerous health issues and the sad death of a baby.
The Gypsy and Traveller Coalition say it is now time for discussions to take place to examine the duty of Thanet council to provide homelessness assistance to families, especially in light of any upcoming eviction, and to improve facilities which, they say, are inadequate.
The Coalition says there are also concerns of the lack of welfare visits, irregular bin emptying services, not enough toilet facilities and the lack of electricity at the site.
Removal bid rejected
Thanet District Council originally attended Magistrates’ Court in May 2021 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 September 2021. The Gypsy and Traveller 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 2022, the application was rejected by the High Court.
The review application was submitted on allegations of human rights breaches regarding the conditions and treatment of the families.
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 with an outcome expected on Tuesday 28 March.
Until that date Thanet council says it will continue to provide facilities at the Port and last December allocated £100,000 for the continued provision of showers, toilets and utilities and for legal costs associated with the site.
Coalition secretary Paul James said: “The (families) are considered homeless in law and so TDC would have a legal obligation to re-home them after evicting them.
“There is the issue of who the council say they are dealing with. They have steadfastly stated they are only dealing with two families within the group. Ignoring the fact this is all one extended family with brothers and sisters with in-laws who have been orbiting Thanet for many years together. They were all parked in Palm Bay when the council applied for a removal notice for them all.
“This blinkered stance, which is part of the judicial review, has seen the council not provide the correct number of toiletry facilities needed by the numbers in the group. Each toilet, for instance, should only be used by 7 people and emptied twice a week as good practise. In reality one toilet is used by up to 23 people and only being emptied once a week and sometimes once a fortnight.
“There is the issue of council officers attending the site for ‘welfare’ visits, with the police, then simply filing the welfare issues reported by the residents and ignoring them thereafter. One being a person being treated for cancer; a child ill with stomach problems which saw her having a serious operation soon after and the death of a baby which saw council officers arriving 2 days later to give out eviction notices to a grieving community.
“The lack of electric facilities means many of the caravans have no heating nor refrigerator facilities for medication that needs to be kept cold. The residents have offered time and again to pay for any electric they might use but this offer has been ignored without being declined.”
Mr James said the exposed location also meant during the storm last February caravans and toilets were blown over.
He said the council initially accepted a list of people looking to officially register as homeless but it was then declared invalid.
Thanet council says the meeting to ‘discuss alternative options’ is welcomed and homelessness support is available.
A council spokesperson said: “The council has received an invitation to attend a meeting with the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition, concerning the residents currently at the Port of Ramsgate. We intend to accept the invitation, on behalf of the relevant councillors and officers, and welcome the opportunity to discuss alternative options directly.
“The eviction of the families currently on site has been stayed pending the outcome of the Judicial Review hearing, scheduled to take place on Tuesday 28 March 2023.
“Any of the families currently staying at the port have the right to ask the council for support to apply for housing, which includes making a homelessness application. We have provided advice on how to contact the appropriate council teams.
“We are actively seeking suitable sites for gypsy and traveller families within the district, in line with our published Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment, and have invited local landowners to put forward any suggested sites.”
A ‘call for sites’ for Thanet’s updated Local Plan received no response in terms of putting forward land for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.
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.
Thanet currently does not have an authorised Traveller site, with the nearest being in Canterbury and Dover although these are often over-subscribed.