PLANS for a transit site for travellers at Piddlehinton have been approved at a heated meeting this morning.
Dozens of local residents attended the meeting of Dorset County Council’s planning committee to consider an application for a temporary transit site for gypsies and travellers on land opposite Piddlehinton Enterprise Park.
The site will cater for up to 25 caravans between March and August until 2016 and will offer police somewhere to move on travellers who are camped illegally elsewhere in the county.
All facilities will be temporary and will be removed when the site is not in use.
The county council has been forced to look for a temporary solution as moves to find permanent travellers site in conjunction with district and borough councils across the county are unlikely to bear any fruit until 2017.
At the meeting residents raised concerns including the impact on security, particularly for businesses at the Enterprise Park, and the potential for ‘friction’ between those using the site and the residents of a permanent gypsy site already up in existence in the village.
Local district councillor Jacqui Cuff said she had been contacted by hundreds of local residents who had voiced their objections to the proposed scheme.
She said: “I agree with and readily understand the need for a transit site in Dorset but this site is really not appropriate, not even on a temporary basis.”
The site proposed was used as a temporary site for travellers during the 2012 Olympics and local county councillor Jill Haynes said that villagers and businesses at the trading estate had experienced problems then.
She added: “We can’t be putting up with this endlessly.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset Martyn Underhill addressed the meeting to outline the need for police to have a transit site to exercise their powers to move on illegal encampments.
He said: “I have to stand here and say that without approval here today police powers are halved and the police are standing with their hands tied behind their back.”
There were chaotic scenes at times during the meeting, with members of the public voicing their disapproval on several occasions.
At one stage a proposal to refuse the scheme, put forward by Cllr David Jones, appeared to have been passed when two members voted for refusal and one against with the remaining three councillors not voting.
However, after the rest of the committee asked for clarification the vote was taken again and the motion was defeated by two votes to four.
Eventually the committee voted to approve the application, subject to a number of conditions including a condition that members asked to be added requiring the site to manned at all times when it is occupied for additional security.
After the meeting Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset Martyn Underhill said he welcomed the powers the site would give to officers to move on unauthorised encampment but said he had sympathy for the local residents and their concerns.
He said it would be interested to review how the new site worked in Dorset, particularly in contrast to Poole and Bournemouth where efforts to secure a transit site had so far proved unsuccessful.
Mr Underhill said: “I’m pleased that we now have an alternative in one part of Dorset to what has been happening year after year and we will watch with interest to see what happens.
“The conurbation hasn’t got this facility and the county has and in six months time we will reflect on which system works.”
He added: “I’m very aware it is an incredibly divisive issue and I do have sympathy with the comments from local residents.”
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