Cabinet received a report following an in-depth review of potential Emergency Stopping Places (ESP) which had been developed by a cross party advisory group at the request of the Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Services.
The report requested Cabinet to consider the recommendation of the Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Services to trail three ESPs for Gypsy/Traveller use in locations at Paston, Eye and Thorney and East Wards.
Councillor Hiller introduced the report and advised that between March of 2013 and April 2014 there had been 150 unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments on Council land which had ultimately cost both the Council and taxpayers £100,000 per year in eviction and clean-up costs.
Further key points highlighted by Councillor Hiller included the mess that was regularly left in community open spaces and children’s play areas which included churned grass, broken and damaged fences and barriers and even human excrement; the transit facilities already provided by many towns and cities across the country, permitting travellers to stop for short periods of time; the transit facilities which had been previously created in Peterborough and its subsequent closure due to its proximity in relation to a permanent traveller site and the tensions this had created; the rationale behind the formation of the Working Group and the input from partners and officers into the process of selection of the sites; the number of sites which had been identified and visited totalling 75 and the associated suitability scoring method and the benefits that the implementation of ESPs would bring to the city.
Cabinet debated the report and key points raised, along with responses to questions provided by Councillor Hiller and the Council’s Assistant Cohesion Managers included:
· Emergency Stopping Places would enable the Police and the Council to perform their duties in relation to this issue effectively;
· It was confirmed that there would be a limit of 28 days per site per year, and any further would require planning consent;
· Over 1000 sites had been initially looked at, with sites to the north and south of the city being considered;
· Arguments against certain sites had been considered and acted upon accordingly;
· The sites had been recommended by a cross party working group, there had been no political considerations when choosing the sites; and
· Councillors affected had been briefed, as had the local MPs and there had been no comments received suggesting that the trial should not go ahead.
Cabinet considered the report and RESOLVED:
To trial three Emergency Stopping Places (ESPs) for Gypsy/Traveller use in locations in Paston, Eye and Thorney and East.
REASONS FOR THE DECISION
The introduction of ESPs in Peterborough would provide better management of short term Gypsy/Traveller encampments in the city. By providing dedicated places to stay, this would 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.
ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS CONSIDERED
To continue to manage unauthorised encampments as at present:
This was rejected due to the ongoing cost and impact to the community. Encampments were increasingly being established in high profile or densely populated areas and although significantly improved, the legal procedures that the Council had to follow did not provide a swift enough response to enable the local authority or police to move the Travellers on.
Provide formal transit pitches:
The experience in Peterborough suggested that this could cause significant community tensions. Additionally, there was a risk that transit pitches over time would become permanent as they tended to be occupied for significantly longer periods than that proposed for the Council’s ESP provision.