Gypsy & Traveller Emergency Stopping Places – Have Your Say – Latest

Latest News – 7th November – Quote received from a senior council officer in response to our objection

“I can further add that this site will never be recommended by officers for ESP use because of the proximity to housing. It did not have universal support from the working group, and I think made it onto the shortlist because of the scoring system alone, which is of course only one part of the decision making process. 

“Hope this helps to reassure you”.

Latest News – 6th November The Labour Party and Independent (who was a Labour activist last year) candidate have finally cottoned on and started a ‘soundbite’ petition, nearly a month after we confirmed that this would never happen. Why? Well obviously its because this is in the council leaders ward and he is up for election next year. As I said back in early October, this is just a political set up done in bad taste in order to play on your fears and is best treated with the contempt it deserves. See 10th October below. 

Latest News – Friday 10th October – After having challenged this totally ridiculous and obviously politically motivated selection, I have been assured by council officers that the site in Coneygree Road will never be granted approval because it is indeed too close to residential properties. Common sense prevails. Please though, keep those comments coming in and thank you for those received so far.

Latest News – Thursday 2nd October – I can confirm that all my Stanground colleagues Cllr Cereste, Cllr Rush and Cllr Walsh will also oppose any expansion which includes the use of the land identified to the rear of houses in Coneygree Road. Please keep those responses coming in.

Latest  News – Tuesday 30th September – Thanks for all the responses so far. Please keep them coming so as I have your views should I need them in the future. Please remember to include your name, address and contact details.

Latest News – Cabinet resolved to trial three (only) Emergency Stopping Places for Gypsy/Traveller use in locations at Paston, Eye and Thorney and East Wards.

Reasons for the decision: The introduction of ESPs in Peterborough will provide better management of short term Gypsy/Traveller encampments in the city. By providing dedicated places to stay, we will reduce the impact caused by unauthorised encampments to local communities and reduce costs to the city council associated with evictions costs, clean-up costs and officer time. ESPs or similar solutions are in place in many towns and cities across the country and are generally accepted to be the most appropriate method of managing unauthorised encampments.

I have agreed to be the contact point for all the Stanground Councillors on this subject so I want to hear your views and alternative solutions should a future recommendation ever be made to expand the number of sites after the trial to include the identified land at the rear of properties in Coneygree Road.

Please be advised that due to the sensitivity of this subject you must qualify your comments by including your name, address and contact details in any communication either by letter sent to Cllr Chris Harper c/o Peterborough City Council, Town Hall, Bridge Street, Peterborough PE1 1HQ or via my council email address chris.harper@peterborough.gov.uk

Rest assured that the personal details you must include when using the comments facility below will not be shown publicly without your express prior permission.

Original Post

A recommendation that the city trials Gypsy and Traveller emergency stopping places to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments and the cost to taxpayers in managing evictions was considered today by Peterborough City Council’s Cabinet.

The recommendation was that the city council trials three sites following a review by a cross-party advisory group of councillors which was tasked with identifying potential sites for emergency stopping places.

The group was set up in 2012 by Councillor Peter Hiller, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Services, in response to an increasing number of unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments in the city, which had sometimes caused friction in local communities due to the encampment being in an unsuitable location.

Emergency stopping places are sites where Gypsies and Travellers can stay on a temporary basis when they are passing through an area. They are places that the council and police can relocate unauthorised encampments to. They can only be used for a maximum of 28 days a year.

The cross-party advisory group identified every piece of land owned by the city council and then selected 75 locations. Following detailed assessments of each site, nine locations were identified as potentially suitable.

One of which is in Coneygree Road, Stanground.  See location below

Proposed ESP - Coneygree Road

It was proposed that the three sites that scored the highest in terms of suitability are trialled. They are the disused road at the rear of Dogsthorpe Triangle, land near the Household Recycling Centre in Dogsthorpe and land at Corporation Farm in First Drove.

Councillor Peter Hiller, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Services, said: “In the past two years alone there have been more than 100 unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments in Peterborough. On average it costs around £100,000 each year to manage and evict unauthorised encampments with costs associated with court fees, bailiffs, clearing up and officer time.

“In many circumstances, Travellers stay for a few days and move on with little or no impact to local communities. However, there are other occasions where they stay for longer in unsuitable locations which can lead to friction between the Travellers, local residents and businesses.

“We cannot continue as we are, nor can we prevent Gypsies and Travellers stopping in our city. They have a legal right to a nomadic lifestyle and equal access to public services.

“We therefore have to provide legitimate areas they can use to stay for short periods of time, in areas that have little impact on the surrounding area. Other towns and cities use emergency stopping places and they are generally accepted to be an effective way of meeting Gypsy and Traveller needs, whilst ensuring the impact to communities is kept to an absolute minimum.”

As part of its review, the cross-party advisory group has been supported by representatives from the police, Amey, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the Traveller community. In addition, councillors have been advised by the National Lead Government Adviser for Travellers’ Issues Richard Bennett and the Chair of the National Association of Gypsy and Traveller Local Authority Officers Bill Forrester.

Councillor John Fox, chairman of the cross-party advisory group, said: “We have spent a great deal of time identifying and visiting every possible site and assessing whether it would be suitable. For example, sites that were close to built-up areas, playgrounds or other recreational sites, or those that would impact on nearby businesses, were immediately discounted.

“The majority of sites were found to be unsuitable (66), leaving us with nine potential areas. We visited these sites again and assessed their suitability in more detail. Three sites scored the highest which it is now proposed are trialled.

“We have spoken to many people as part of our review, including other councils that are using emergency stopping places. In Leeds and Kent their use has resulted in a significant reduction in unauthorised encampments and associated costs for the council.

“Every ward councillor in the city has experience of Gypsies and Travellers stopping near to play areas or residential areas and the upset this can cause. We cannot continue like this. We believe that emergency stopping places offer a better solution for both the Gypsies and Travellers wanting to stop in our city and for our residents and businesses.”

Emergency stopping places would have temporary toilet facilities, temporary clean water and temporary waste facilities with the aim of reducing subsequent clean-up costs. Occupants would be charged a daily rate to help cover these costs and be required to sign up to an occupancy agreement.

Only one family unit, about six caravans, would be allowed to accommodate the emergency stopping place at any one time. Once the 28 day limit has been reached, the location cannot be used again for a further 12 months.

Alongside its work to recommend emergency stopping places, the cross-party working group has also reviewed and transformed the process undertaken to evict Travellers in unauthorised encampments. The council now uses criminal law to secure an eviction, which although quicker than our previous methodology, can still typically take up to two weeks to lead to an eviction.