Consultation to take place over creating Gypsy and Traveller pitches at land off Shottendane Road

The area proposed for the new Traveller accommodation

A consultation will be held over proposals for Gypsy and Traveller pitches to be established on an area of land off Shottendane Road in Garlinge.

The land, which is owned by the council, has been leased for agricultural use since 1977 although notice on that lease to expire this October has been served on tenant farmer Jonathan Tapp.

The council’s Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment, published in 2019, identified the need for 7 permanent pitches and 5 transit pitches. A pitch is defined as providing sufficient spaces for two caravans, two vehicles and utility blocks, supported by communal facilities.

The proposal for the Shottendane land is for two access points, one from Caxton Road and the other from Shottendane Road, with four permanent pitches and a community room, a children’s play area and an area for animals.

This would be subject to a planning application which will not be submitted until after consultation and further discussion by councillors to review the results.

At a council meeting last night, which was attended by residents from Garlinge and members of the Westgate and Garlinge Action Group against housing development on farmland, council leader Rick Everitt said the proposal was “driven by the current and future needs of families already in the area and already an integral part of the community.”

Cllr Everitt said sites had previously been assessed in 2019-2020 with further work and visits carried out by the then-Conservative administration between 2021-2023. Shottendane was identified as a potential Gypsy and Traveller site but a funding bid for this failed.

Deputy council leader Helen Whitehead said the decision being made was “on one thing and one thing only, whether to have a consultation on the potential provision of a Traveller site on a previously and comprehensively assessed site at Shottendane. We are not being asked to provide a site. We are not being asked to give permission for a site. We are being asked to allow residents to formally give their opinion on the possibility of the provision of a site.”

However, questions were raised as to why just one site was being put forward for consultation.

Garlinge councillor John Worrow  said: “I have been speaking to local tenant farmer Jonathan Tapp, whose family has been farming in Garlinge for generations. Farmer Tapp is devastated by the news that he is being kicked off his farmland.

“Why has this greenfield, grade 1 agricultural land been singled out when brownfield sites such as the former hoverport site in Cliffsend were not considered?”

Cllr Whitehead said talks had been taking place with Mr Tapp and a meeting arranged.

She added: “That discussion, as it could have done previously, will also cover discussions of long leases for part of the site and short term leases for other parts. The reason for the termination of the lease links to the fact that all of this land is linked under the current lease.”

She said there were complications around separating the current lease, with part of the site needed by KCC for the Inner Circuit road network, and a new lease is needed.

Cllr Everitt said the hoverport site had previously been assessed as part of a long list of options in 2019 but had not been put forward for potential use. He later added that it was unsuitable for use due to being in a flood risk area, being next to a SSSI and possibly being contaminated. He added: “The council has no plans for that site. I wish we did as it is a large site.”

Green councillor Tricia Austin said: “As a Green Party councillor I inevitably regret any use of agricultural land for anything  other than growing food on it.

“On the other hand as a councillor who has been working with Traveller families for a number of years now having had a group of families literally dumped in my ward, I have become acutely aware of the need for these sites and the fact that we have let the Traveller community in Thanet down by not providing these sites.”

She added: “The point needs to be made that this is just the beginning of a process and it’s about listening to what everyone has to say, residents, tenant farmers and members of the Traveller community.”

Labour councillor David Green also suggested more sites should be considered, highlighting the recommendation from councillors at a scrutiny meeting on January 16 that multiple sites should be consulted on.

He also said that although other sites had been assessed previously, those details were not in the current report, adding: “I do not think we can expect residents to know what happened months or years ago and how this land (Shottendane) has been selected for this special treatment.”

He added: “We recognise council needs to provide land for Travellers if only to comply with government regulations. But from the point of view of residents they want to see, and they want to see now, that this land is being treated along with all others that could possibly be used.”

The call to take up the recommendation of the scrutiny panel to include more possible sites in a consultation was echoed by Conservative councillors Reece Pugh and George Kup. Cllr Pugh highlighted that consulting on multiple sites at one time would be better than repeating the exercise for each parcel of land put forward to cover the entire Traveller site requirement.

The council says Shottendane has capacity to accommodate all the 12 pitches needed but the proposal is for a number of smaller schemes, adding that early engagement with the Traveller Coalition suggests a number of smaller family sized sites, consisting of between 2 and 4 plots would be more appropriate.

This means: “If some of the required pitches are provided on the land at Shottendane Road, there will still be a requirement for further sites elsewhere providing for the remaining identified need.”

A report says the council could offer the site or individual pitches for rent, lease or sale but could only consider direct delivery of pitches if the costs were fully covered by pitch fees and/or external grant funding. There is currently no identified capital funding to support the provision of new sites.

The report adds: “Outline or detailed planning consent would also create an option for the council to dispose of any proposed site by way of a lease or sale to a family or families wishing to occupy the land or to a third party seeking to establish and manage a site.”

Harvest at the land in Shottendane  Photo Sarah Bowers

Cabinet members agreed to conduct public consultation with the Gypsy and Traveller community and neighbouring residents about the Shottendane Road proposal with an amendment that the results would come back to Cabinet and Scrutiny panel meetings before any planning application is submitted.

As part of the same report it was agreed to dispose of part of the land at Shottendane Road to Kent County Council  for the proposed Inner Circuit road network and a linked sustainable drainage scheme and that housing on the Shottendane land would only be considered, following the assessment of all land submitted to the council as part of the ‘Call for Sites’ and the completion of the current review of the Thanet Local Plan.

Housing director Bob Porter estimated the consultation, and then bringing those results back to Cabinet and Scrutiny, could take around three months.

Action group

The site is currently is use as farmland

The Westgate and Garlinge Action Group had written to Cllr Everitt over their concerns of the use of agricultural land when there are brownfield sites on the isle.

The group suggested an evaluation of  previously assessed sites such as the Hoverport, land at Tivoli Brook, the Potten Street car park in St Micholas-at-Wade, Shottendane and hardstanding at Jackey Bakers in Ramsgate.

The group has been backed by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, who said: “I strongly support the view, shared by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Action Group, that a further and thorough review of all potential sites should be undertaken before any decision is submitted to full Council for possible approval.”

Previous assessments

Travellers’ site proposals Photo Gavin Wallis

In December 2019 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 removed from the plans in July 2020 and Shottendane was then added to the list without any meeting by the working group responsible for assessing the sites.

In September of that year proposals for temporary tolerated Traveller sites at Potten Street car park and the land at Shottendane Road in Margate were put on hold.

Thanet council instead opted to launch a ‘call for sites’ through its Local Plan review.

58 Comments

  1. there was nothing said about all the rubbish and other material left at the former sally line , and how much it cost us to be removed and cleaned up ?

    • Oh no, that wasn’t them according to Karen Constantine, apparently someone was brave enough to drive onto their compound with flat bed trucks and dump all that rubbish while the travellers slept, the culprits were that good they didn’t even wake the dogs that lived on the site.

      • I find it rather worrying that elected representatives who are in positions of authority and decision making on behalf of thousands of people display such a level of naive gullibility as to believe that people unconnected to the occupants of a Traveller camp would just drive in and fly tip. This simply would not happen!

        • They don’t believe what they say, but it enables them to avoid having to take any action and gives a way of deflecting criticism, plus they know full well that no one can actually prove anything , with possibly the exception of the council who may or maynot have cctv covering the area in question.

          Just all part of a farce that will run on and on. Common sense and honesty left the building long ago.

          • I would imagine I have as much evidence that the fly tipping was done by the happy campers or people known to them as you have evidence that it wasn’t.

      • Travellers tend to mind their own business and wouldn’t feel they have the right to stop others from occupying some of the ground or dumping on it, which apparently is what happened.
        If you have evidence to the contrary please present it.

    • What’s has this article from 5 years ago have to do with the Pavee people (aka Travellers) who have been traversing Thanet for centuries?
      Are all Travellers responsible for some Travellers?
      Are all Thanet residents responsible for some of the serious crimminal residents?
      Your logic suggests they are.

  2. Appalling that grade 1 agricultural lands is being considered, and even worse that a tenant farmer will suffer through the proposal. If he has already been given notice, it sounds as though the consultation is just a whitewash, and the decision has already been made.

    • They must’ve compulsory-purchased it. Perhaps they can do the same for the Dreamland site, and give that to them instead? I’m sure the bleeding-heart liberal DFLs will welcome them with open arms, between drinking their lattes and marching for terrorists.

  3. Traveller Coalition suggests a number of smaller family sized sites, consisting of between 2 and 4 plots would be more appropriate

    I expect many of us would like to live on small developments with the extra facilities /space the council is suggesting ( communal room and space for animals) but most of us have to live within our means and not expect the rest of society to pander to our wants. The most cost efficient solution is to provide the identified need on one site any other option is an unaffordable luxury.

    Ironic really that even travellers don’t want to live close to too many other travellers.

    • You seem to be working off a lot of conjecture rather than fact old bean.
      Council caravan parks would bring in rent and council tax.
      Cheaper in the long run than courts and barrister costs.
      A council caravan park is along the lines of council housing!
      Are you advocating all council tenants be evicted and the property sold off?
      Smaller caravan pitches is to appease the NIMBY brigade and not because Travellers want smaller holdings.

      • You’re too quick to fall behind your preconceived opinion, read what i wrote properly and you’ll see that the quote i gave regarding smaller sites was given by the “traveller coalition” , my view is the site needs to be provided somewhere and that it meets the full assessed need in order to allow tdc to move unauthorised camps on in a timely manner.
        A council caravan park as suggested in this case is not along the lines of a council house, unless council houses have grown considerably are provided with communal rooms and space to keep animals.

        To end the endless pantomines and farce the full site needs to be provided. The problem will be finding such a site. No one wants it near them because of the increased crime and antisocial behaviour linked to traveller lifestyles.

  4. I know of a place that is a brownfield site,is fenced and has not been used for at least 12 years, furthermore it has been used to store scrap in the past.
    Thanet has played pass the parcel regarding travellers for decades.Even when central govt was handing out grants for traveller sites, TDC could never lead and make one of those hard choices that politicians bang on about.
    Managing a traveller site takes,persistence, a certain ruthlessness, and leadership, all attributes that are singularly lacking at TDC.. Instead Thanet splinters into little groups, that say the same old things time
    and time again.
    Next door in Dover, they bit the bullet and built a traveller site, and my god, was it trouble all round at first, but today Dover can move on travellers out of its district and into Thanet or where ever there is no permanent site.
    The choice is yours.Do you want to continue with the farcical chase round the island each summer with various travellers, or do you want to get a grip and resolve 40 years of indecision.
    I am not surprised David Green is advocating booting the can up the road, he has done that during the whole of his political career.His options mean never making a decision, unless the odds are so heavily stacked in your favour, that you can come away without a scratch on your tarnished escutcheon.

    • Spot on .Yes about 40 years of thick ,self serving , rudderless TDC.
      Repeatedly kicking this issue in long grass when options for site were available .Now prime land having to be considered.
      No fan of travellers sites – however if supplied travellers cannot cause the problems they have in Thanet .

    • However they need to build a facility that meets the assessed need , providing anything short of that means TDC will still have the problem of being unable to move on unauthorised encampments. Or maybe thats what the current administration wants , partially solve the problem but not have to deal with any problematic arrivals.
      But in the absence of allocated funding from TDC coffers or allocated funding from elsewhere nothing is going to happen anyway.

  5. If TDC think by taking this farmland will solve the problem of caravans / motorhomes / pick up trucks and posh cars that those who call themselves “ travellers “ have plenty of for their trespassing all over the area in the summer months then think again. If TDC pay a visit to Tilbury area they will see the widespread damage that has been caused.

    • The trouble in any other county or area is not relevant to Thanet!

      Do you believe all communities to be homogeneous?

      Are Thanet residents responsible for crime in London/Birmingham/ Manchester etc etc?

      By your logic they are.

  6. At last Thanet District Council has started to comply with its legal duty in this case. You always get outbreaks of “nimbyism ” on these issues but once it has been carried out people wonder what all the fuss was about.

    This picture of s greenfield farmer’s site is a nonsense. The then newly created Thanet Council must have compulsorily purchased it in 1977. This would almost certainly have been for building Council homes. While delays occurred they leased the field to a farmer to bring in at least a small income until the development started. The picture of horny handed generations of farmers growing mangle workers is srarry eyed nonsense.

    It is good that Thanet councillors meet the leaseholders – secrecy is rarely good in local government – but we now need to get on and provide this desperately needed site.

  7. well with that and all the other big ideas in Thanet soon we will have no farmers fields left as to wild life Thanets planners are gradually killing them or sending them on their way elsewhere just look at the mess along Haine Rd even before the houses are sold traffic is polluting the whole area and will only get worse that is the plan for Shottendane Rd with all the big ideas and houses everywhere so what about putting this camp in among the new houses along Haine Rd maybe use the pathetic playground built on the outskirts along the main rd as I for one would never let my young child play so close to traffic even if it is fenced as to the pollution of the many queuing cars wll say no more

  8. this piece of land belongs to TDC. They rent it out. Legally they can end the rent/lease at any time when applicable, i.e. lease renewal time.. They can use it for whatever is required as long as it is legal. Nothing to argue about. TDC is required to have a traveler site. Where is up to TDC however bad the decision and however bad the council leaders are. I would also like to see a compulsory site for those that live in motor homes or converted vans. They can park anywhere it seems and stay as long as they like.

  9. A question: Will these people pay Council Tax, Water Rates Electricity & other expenses that Thanet residents pay?

      • This is the advice Shelter gives: “Your agreement
        When you move on to a site you are given a written agreement. This should set out:
        the site rules
        your pitch fees
        the site manager’s responsibilities
        notice times if you want to leave
        Costs
        Costs will usually include:
        pitch fees
        council tax
        utilities”

        • Quite why the pitch occupiers aren’t responsible for their own water and electric supplies ,i don’t understand, can’t be too hard to provide a metred connection point for each and for the utility company bill directly. This then wouldn’t leave the council liable in the event bills the council issues for utilities aren’t paid. It would also mean that the council wouldn’t be responsible for the maintenance and repair of cabling and sub meters, beyond the utility companies meter.
          Beyond that any fees and council tax would i assume be similar to any other tenant the council has and be subject to the same rules.

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