On Monday 27th January, a Council motion was passed approving the selection of a site (Marshes End) adjacent to the Fire Station on the roundabout at the Dorset Way/Holes Bay Road junction as a Temporary Stopping Place for gypsies and travellers. This is a complex issue and was passed with over 100 Creekmoor residents in the Council Chamber, the vast majority of whom were against the proposal. All Poole People councillors voted against the motion for the reasons stated below.
First some background. Last year the Council hosted a meeting of stakeholders to discuss how to deal with the unauthorised encampments that appear within the Borough each Summer. It was established that the police cannot move travellers on without a court order unless there is a Transit Site or Temporary Stopping Place available for their relocation within the Borough. As a result, Council instructed officers to pursue the possibility of creating a Temporary Stopping Place on Council land before Summer 2014. After considering 91 potential sites officers recommended Marshes End to Council.
For us there were too many loose ends for us to be able to vote for development of the site at this stage. We concluded that despite the best efforts of the Council's officers, bringing a site into use by Summer 2014 was too tight a schedule and would involve taking inappropriate risks. In particular:
â€¢ Although the police have said in principle that they would move travellers on if a suitable Temporary Stopping Place existed, they have not given specific approval to Marshes End. We feel that we must establish that the specification of the site would be considered suitable by the police before we start works;
â€¢ The site would cost approximately Â£250,000 to develop. Having looked at the specification, this seems high to us;
â€¢ More consideration needs to be given to the likely pattern of traveller movements that will result. A Council officer said to us that he believed that working travellers would find Marshes End an attractive site as it offers immediate access to the road network. It is therefore possible that a Temporary Stopping Place in this place may encourage more travellers to visit the area. If the site is occupied by working travellers, then the police cannot move other travellers on to the site. It is important to note also that the police will not split up traveller groups. Marshes End would only have capacity for 12 familes;
â€¢ Marshes End is a former landfill site and it is not clear what consequences traveller fires may have; and
â€¢ Last but no least, the rushed nature of this process has not permitted the Council to carry out consultation with local residents.
Until these issues are addressed we do not feel that the Council can have any real confidence that the Temporary Stopping Place will be successful in reducing unauthorised encampments. As the motion has been passed, however, subject to planning permission being granted, we will be able to see whether the site works when it comes into operation this Summer.