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Weymouth park and ride put forward as possible temporary traveller site
A SITE at the entrance to Weymouth has been put forward as one of two possible locations for a temporary transit facility for travellers.
A committee of councillors have supported a recommendation to look at bringing forward a temporary transit site at either the overspill car park at the Weymouth park and ride facility at Mount Pleasant or a site used during the Olympics last summer in Piddlehinton.
Dorset County Council's environment overview committee was warned by local members that any proposals concerning the Weymouth site could spark widespread opposition from residents.
The committee also agreed to recommend to cabinet that a planning application is prepared to secure a temporary transit site at the Great Dorset Steam Fair for another five years and to work with Dorset Police and the unitary authorities in Bournemouth and Poole to explore another temporary transit site on the east side of the county.
Members were told that district and borough councils are currently in the process of drawing up a development plan to identify permanent site for traveller sites but that was an ongoing process and may not be adopted until 2017.
The council's director for environment Miles Butler said the council was looking for a temporary solution that in the interim period would give police and local authorities more powers to move on travellers in illegal encampments as they could be relocated to the transit sites.
The temporary sites would be operational from March until the Great Dorset Steam Fair site opens in August.
A report considered by the committee stated that the Piddlehinton site would have a one off start up cost of £3,600 with estimated ongoing costs of £35,400 a year with only overnight security or £60,300 for 24 hour security.
The Weymouth site would cost just £700 to set up with ongoing costs of £6,800 without security, £32,100 with overnight security or £57,700 with 24 hour security.
County councillor for Lodmoor David Mannings claimed the Weymouth site was not suitable and warned members the council would face a backlash from local residents if it proceeded with plans to use it.
He said: “When visitors enter Weymouth from the new Weymouth Relief Road they do not expect to see a campsite, it makes a very bad first impression of Weumouth and could turn visitors away from using the park and ride facility.”
Borough councillor for Radipole Bill White added: “It's safe to say there will be a huge number of objections if this site is put forward.”
The recommendation will now go before the council's cabinet and if, after further investigations, either of the sites is selected a formal planning application will then have to be made.
Committee chairman Robin Cook praised the council for taking positive action to tackle what has become an ongoing problem.
He said: “This is a very difficult area that we have been working on for a long time and it needed somebody to take a lead on this.”
Council misses out on funding
DORSET County Council has missed out on £1.75million of government funding after failing to bring forward a transit site for travellers within the necessary time frame.
A report considered by the committee revealed the authority was offered the funds by the Homes and Communities Agency in January last year with a view to creating 25 pitches for travellers at a site at Uddens Woods near Ferndown.
However, the plans were strongly opposed by the local community with a petition objecting to the scheme attracting 6,000 signatures.
The council decided not to proceed with plans to develop the site and wait for the outcomes of the development plan drawn up by the district and borough councils following an extensive consultation process before making any decisions about permanent transit sites.
However, the government funding came with the condition that construction on any site was completed by 2014 and with the development plan unlikely to be adopted until 2017 the funding has now been withdrawn.
The report stated that the council will be able to bid in subsequent rounds of HCA funding in the future.
PCC praises council move
POLICE and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has praised the environment and overview committee for its 'forward thinking' approach in backing the temporary transit sites.
He said: “I welcome this news and congratulate the committee for its forward thinking.
“This means police powers in relation to unauthorised encampments in rural areas of Dorset will be strengthened and this will remove community tensions.“This is a good day for Dorset.”
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