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Three sites in Thanet could become temporary traveller pitches as number of illegal camps soars

Three temporary 'tolerated' sites for travellers could be created in Thanet as new figures show the staggering rise of unauthorised encampments across the isle.

In the past six years, the number of illegal sites has grown from just two in 2013 to 53 this year, with 70 locations deemed as 'vulnerable' to unauthorised camps.

The number of travellers has increased significantly since 2013 (21878023)
The number of travellers has increased significantly since 2013 (21878023)

Since 2018, the majority of incursions have been linked to two families made up of small groups which attract others, leading to encampments of more than 20 vehicles on public and private land.

Dreamland car park and Dane Park in Margate are just two areas which have been used by travellers.

Council chiefs are now looking to create three temporary 'tolerated' sites at Potten Street in St Nicholas-at-Wade, Tivoli in Margate and at Ramsgate Port, to be used on a rotational basis.

These sites are for unauthorised encampments which are tolerated for an agreed amount of time.

The plan, put together by the traveller review group at Thanet council, is due to be discussed by councillors tomorrow night.

Land at the Port of Ramsgate could be used as a temporary tolerated site. Picture: Chris Davey. (16546720)
Land at the Port of Ramsgate could be used as a temporary tolerated site. Picture: Chris Davey. (16546720)

In her report to councillors, Penny Button, head of safer neighbourhoods, says tolerated sites allow smoother enforcement on the traveller groups which choose to ignore the direction and stay on other land.

"A temporary tolerated site also allows easier management of amenities such as waste collection and toilet provision, reducing the impact on the local area," she writes.

"It will also provide provision whilst working on longer term resolutions to fill the required allocation."

New figures show the number of unauthorised encampments has grown from two in 2013 to nine in 2015, then from 13 in 2016 to 28 in 2017.

In 2018 this number jumped to 46 - rising to 55 when other groups have joined - and 53 this year to date.

Tivoli in Margate could be a temporary tolerated site for travellers in Thanet. Picture: Google Street View.
Tivoli in Margate could be a temporary tolerated site for travellers in Thanet. Picture: Google Street View.

Ms Button says additional security measures are under discussion, but that this could take years to happen.

She writes: "A district-wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) is also being considered across foreshore and cliff top locations."

Legal advice is being sought about the use of the anti-social behaviour PSPO covering Margate and Ramsgate town centres, which can help deal with issues such as waste.

The council says the exact cost of waste from unauthorised encampments is not possible as clearance and enforcement takes place as part of everyday workloads.

However a clearance at Dreamland car park in 2019 cost £560, in addition to the usual daily car park rounds for bin emptying.

Travellers from the Dreamland car park in Margate were removed by council teams and the police
Travellers from the Dreamland car park in Margate were removed by council teams and the police

The cost of security and repairs following forced entry to sites also varies depending on what is needed, for example, the significant fencing at Jackey Bakers recreation fields in 2018.

Due to the rise in unauthorised encampments, the council has included the need for seven permanent sites and five transit pitches in its draft Local Plan.

Joseph Jones, director of the the Gypsy Council, says there is a desperate need and he is working on plans for a permanent site on land by Minster services.

"We have been left with no choice but to set up camps on the side of roads and unauthorised sites," he said.

"Permanent sites are needed. At the moment, we're excluded from society."


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