March 12 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 16, 2013
Borough councils in Suffolk have spent more on illegal traveller sites this year than they have in the previous three years combined, according to new figures.
The total bill for just three local authorities – Ipswich, St Edmundsbury and Suffolk Coastal – for 2013 stands at £37,900 for a combination of legal, staffing and repair costs.
The previous three years saw the same councils spend £17,000 on enforcement. Waveney District Council spent £18,200 in that time period, but has not dealt with any sites this year.
Keren Wright, Suffolk County Council’s gypsy and traveller liaison officer, said: “High-profile encampments impact on the settled community, resulting in emotions running high and the requirement from officers to act swiftly.
“There are some encampments, but not all, that have families displaying poor behaviour and little regard for their settled community neighbours.
“Not all unauthorised encampments are high-profile and result in mass clear-up and costs, but these are the ones that are remembered and reflect on attitudes towards all gypsies and travellers.”
She added that the county suffered from a lack of residential pitches and short-stay accommodation.
Suffolk and Norfolk county councils have a joint traveller strategy. A needs assessment found that Suffolk needs 59 more pitches, almost a third more than what has already been allocated in the county.
While Norfolk has four transit sites, which can provide a short-term solution for travellers, Suffolk has none, although work is ongoing to identify suitable locations.
In Ipswich, recent sites at Bramford Lane – where a 20-month-old toddler was killed after being hit by a car – and Sprites Lane cost £18,000 and £2,000 respectively.
Of that, around £4,000 was spent on services and works, such as a replacement gate and repairs to the play area. The rest represents the staff time spent on the matter.
A council spokeswoman said: “This is a very complex situation and often involves more than simply land ownership issues. Some are more difficult and or costly to resolve.
“Our costs were significantly higher than normal this year due to matters surrounding the tragic death of a child at Bramford Land Recreation Ground – that encampment required a different and more costly approach than with previous unauthorised encampments.”
Ipswich has had 16 illegal encampments in total since January 1, 2010. In that period, Suffolk Coastal has had 24, St Edmundsbury has had 19 and Waveney has had six.
Only three in Suffolk Coastal required enforcement – at Langer Park, Manor Terrace car park and Garrison Lane car park in Felixstowe, between April and September this year. A total of £7,000 was spent on section 78 orders and the cost of staffing.
Before this year, St Edmundsbury had spent only £200 on illegal sites since 2010.
This year, it has issued 11 section 78 eviction notices, which each cost £200, as well as an additional £3,114 cleaning up a site at Holywater Meadow, Moreton Hall in September. Normally, clean-up costs are absorbed into the weekly service.