A ROW has erupted over a lack of action by authorities to deal with travellers who are camping illegally at the Weymouth park and ride site.
Dorset County Council is allowing families to stay for a week in the car park at its Mount Pleasant park and ride hub.
A separate group who moved on to the Swannery car park on Tuesday night had gone by yesterday lunchtime. Before they left they were issued with fines by the borough council for not paying for parking and now there have been calls for DCC to deal with the other visitors in a similar way.
The arrival of more travellers in the borough comes as preparations are made for a summer-only transit camp at Piddlehinton.
Families with several caravans and other vehicles have set up camp in a corner of the park and ride car park.
The group told the Echo they had come from London. When asked how long they would be staying, one member of the group said: “How long is a piece of string?”
Landowner DCC, which has also been talking to the travellers in its gypsy liaison role, is not issuing the group with a notice to quit as officers are satisfied they will be moving on after a week.
A spokesman said: “It is a family who are known to us.
“They arrived on Sunday. We visited the site yesterday and they have told us they will be there for a week.
“We are carrying out a ‘needs audit’ but they have limited needs and will be moving off in a week.”
The park and ride site has been a regular stopping-off point for travellers in recent years and the overspill car park at the facility was originally put forward as a temporary transit site option.
County councillor for Westham David Harris said: “Councils should act as promptly and efficiently as they can when dealing with travellers although I’m not familiar with the legal powers the council has at the park and ride site.
“What is frustrating for people is that certain groups are able to do this while others wouldn’t get away with it without serious consequences. If I parked there for a week without getting a ticket I’d expect a heavy fine.”
He added: “The sooner we can get the transit site open the sooner we can resolve these problems.”
Borough councillor Bill White praised the borough council for issuing fixed penalty notices to travellers who stayed overnight at the Swannery car park and feels the same level of action should be directed at the other visitors.
He said: “I feel they should pay.
“It’s misuse of the park and ride facility and detrimental to the operation.”
New UKIP councillor Francis Drake said: “There should be a level playing field for all.
“If someone brought a towing caravan down here on holiday they would have to pay for a week’s stay so why should it be any different for travellers?”
Transit site planned
DORSET County Council’s planning committee granted permission last month for a temporary transit site at Piddlehinton for the next three summers. An opening date hasn’t been finalised.
The Piddlehinton site is the same place used as a temporary stopping area for travellers during the Olympics.
The site, which is next to a business park, 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 in the county.
DCC has been forced to look for a temporary solution as moves to find permanent traveller sites are unlikely to happen until 2017.
Concerns have been raised about the Piddlehinton site in the community.
The Gypsy Council is also unhappy, saying the planned security measures were unacceptable and likely to deter groups from using the site.