Councils unwilling to provide travellers sites

November 28 2018

Temporary sites for gypsies and travellers are “urgently needed” in South Gloucestershire but no town or parish council is willing to help.

By Kate Wilson, Local Democracy Reporter

This is according to a taskforce set up to see what more district council can and should be doing when it comes to encampments.

South Gloucestershire councillors said it “urgently” needed to set up temporary facilities the communities can use when they are on the move or unauthorised camping will continue.  There are up to 100 unauthorised encampments in South Gloucestershire each year.

Gypsies and travellers from the UK, Ireland and continental Europe constitute one of South Gloucestershire’s largest ethnic minorities.

The authority has two authorised gypsy/traveller sites, with 39 pitches in Winterbourne and Patchway, but it says it experiences high volumes of unauthorised encampments when they are in transit – often to horse fairs, weddings, funerals and seasonal travelling.

A report to the council’s scrutiny commission said temporary stopping places could “significantly” reduce the negative impacts of unauthorised camping – but no town or parish council was willing to help.

The taskforce members said that stance was “not helpful or constructive and reflected attitudes that contribute to many of the unhelpful perceptions about the gypsy and traveller community”.

The report added: “There needs to be urgency and prominence given to identifying and delivering land that might be suitable for temporary stopping places.”

During the meeting Cllr Steve Reade, who presented the conclusions of the taskforce, said just 50 per cent of town and parish councils responded to the taskforce review.

“We asked would they be willing to make land available for these sites, and every one said no,” added Cllr Reade, “But they all said they recognised a need.”

The recommendations from the taskforce ask cabinet to investigate the provision of negotiated stopping spaces across the district.

However some of the members of the scrutiny commission felt this did not go far enough and asked that “transit sites” also be included.

Frampton Cotterell councillor Pat Hockey said some gypsies and travellers visit the area for more than a couple of days depending on the reason for their visit.

“In some cases they can stay for months and I think we really need to look into the possibility of transit sites as well,” she added.