Traveller families no longer at Ramsgate Port with entrance now blocked by concrete slabs

Concrete slabs now block the entrance

The area of Ramsgate Port used by Traveller families since June 2021 is now empty with the entrance blocked by concrete slabs.

It is understood two families have been housed but is not clear where a third family and any members who had been planning to travel back to the site will now stay.

The site became empty yesterday (December 22). The previous night there had been five caravans on the land.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The Travellers who were based at the Port of Ramsgate have now left the site.

“The council issued a Section 77 notice to the Travellers on Thursday 7 December.

“The notice, which was served by council officers, directed individuals to remove their vehicles and belongings and to leave the land.

“Individuals who previously had the authority to remain on the site have now moved on, with support from the council where this was needed, avoiding the need for any eviction action.

“Separately, we are actively seeking suitable sites for Gypsy and Traveller families within the district and previously submitted a bid for funding to the government’s Gypsy and Traveller Site Fund.”

The bid for government funding was unsuccessful.

Thanet council formally withdrew consent for Traveller families at the Port of Ramsgate to stay on the site in October. A further notice was issued in November.

The 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.

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 some of those at the port 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.

Negotiated stopping site at Ramsgate Port

On December 1 2021 another section 77 notice to leave the land was served on everyone staying at the port site, However, one member of the Pavee group was supported by The Gypsy and Traveller Coalition and a number of Ramsgate councillors to take the issue to Judicial Review and the High Court quashed the section 77 eviction notice in April of this year deeming it invalid.

A notice to leave the site was then issued with Thanet council deputy leader Helen Whitehead saying at that time the council was identifying long term housing options for Travellers.

Traveller Coalition

However, Secretary of the Traveller Coalition Paul James said some of those staying on the port have been away visiting family and will find the site barricaded when they return.

He said: “The council has acted with no thought or consideration for the people on the site who left to visit family for Christmas.

“The council has barricaded the gate to stop people, who were not ordered by the court to leave the premises, from re-entering a place a court gave them permission to reside at.

“These people are statutorily homeless and will be again making homeless applications to be accommodated by TDC who have a lawful obligation to do so.

“The Travellers attempted to register as homeless before but the registration list, handed to the previous council leader, went missing after being passed on to the relevant person. This calls into question the issue of GDPR  handling by TDC.

“TDC actions assure there will be Travellers again stopping on land in Thanet without permission as TDC is no nearer providing a site for Travellers in the area, in spite of accepting they were obliged to since 2010.

“The gates to what was their home was blocked three days before Christmas. Shocking behaviour by the Labour council and its leaders.”

Housing support

County Councillor Karen Constantine, who is one of those who have supported the families since 2021, said: “I am concerned that lots of Travellers who were off the site travelling will be turning up just before Christmas to find the site barricaded.

“We understand they won’t be leaving Thanet so will be on road. Many families were notified to TDC as being statutorily homeless and they I assume will be eligible for housing support.”

On 28 June 2022, the Police Act 2022 came into force, which means people who live on roadside camps may now face time in prison, a £2500 fine or their home being taken from them.

‘Thought and consideration’

Cllr Whitehead said: “A great deal of thought and consideration has been put into ongoing and long term support of the Travelling community in our area, in spite of a lack of central funding to do so, and the rejection of our bid to central government to provide a registered site.

“The port was never a suitable site for anyone to live long term, and was never intended for such a use; this has been agreed by all parties involved, and we are focusing on producing sites that are suitable for long term usage.

“Housing and Community Officers have visited the site regularly, and all individuals and families on the site have been supported to make homelessness applications if they wish to do so; some have made applications, and individuals have also been supported to apply to other sites within Kent.

“As with all homelessness applications, a name is not an entire application; all residents follow the same procedure for homelessness applications, and officers have been available to support in those applications, in comprehensive and sensitive ways.

“The Travellers Coalition and representatives were offered an early meeting when notice was first given regarding the site; this was not taken up, but we still have a meeting arranged for January, which we hope they will attend, as dialogue is essential for the provision of sites, and much progress has been made on both the design of sites with their contribution, and with the identification of potential sites.

“Work to provide long term and suitable provision will continue, as we value and support all communities in Thanet, and do our best to provide secure and suitable housing for all.

“I would like to thank the ward members as well as our Officers for their commitment to and support of individuals and families throughout this process.”