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Proposals for a Transit Site for Gypsy Travellers Steve Hansford Chichester District Council
Why is this an issue? • The Chichester area had 51 unauthorised encampments on public and private land this year – more than any other West Sussex Local Authority. • Unauthorised encampments can disrupt local community facilities, and cost time and resources to manage. • Without a Transit site provision the legal options to manage unauthorised encampments are limited. • The experience of East Sussex is that a transit site coupled with strong multi agency management can significantly reduce unauthorised encampments.
Duty of CDC as a Housing Authority • We have a duty to assess the accommodation needs of and make provision for the G&T community. • Their needs have been assessed and provision will be dealt with as part of the local plan process. • Required to provide for 59 permanent pitches from 2012 - 2027 Chichester District and also a need identified for up to 10 transit pitches in West Sussex. • A further study was commissioned by all Districts in West Sussex to look at issues of unauthorised encampments and solutions
Dealing with Unauthorised Encampments 1 • Trespass is a civil act and it is for the landowner to seek repossession of their property via civil court procedures. • The police have the discretion to use S 61 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) to direct unauthorised campers to leave a site if certain conditions are met i. e. damage to property, violent behaviour. • Police will only use this power if it is reasonable, appropriate and proportionate. • If s 61 is used cannot return to the site for 3 months.
Dealing with Unauthorised Encampments 2 • The police may use a discretionary ‘power to direct’ under S 62 CJPOA if there is a suitable LA site available. • The Police consider this a feasible option if there are suitable facilities, but each case will be taken on its merit. • If the site is managed by the County Council on behalf of all Districts in its area the ‘power to direct’ applies to the whole of West Sussex. • Refusal to comply with a direction means those travellers cannot return to that area for 3 months.
What is a suitable site? • A Transit site is an authorised site provided by Local Authority on a permanent basis which provides basic facilities and services for short term stays. • CDC is proposing works at its Stane Street depot which has released land that could be used as a Transit site for short stays by Gypsies and Travellers. • While the design has yet to be finalised, the space available would suggest capacity for 9 pitches. • Gypsies and Travellers would have to sign agreements and pay for a pitch which may be for days or weeks, up to 12 weeks. Rental agreements would be enforced.
Why does the site have to be there? • The need for a Transit site is an issue across W/Sussex. • No other site has been identified and Chichester District has had the greatest number of unauthorised encampments in the last two years. • Works at the Depot have made the land available • We will share the costs with other Councils. • By working in partnership with Sussex Police, WSCC and the six other Districts and Boroughs in West Sussex, we have the most to gain from a Transit site.
How will the site be managed? • It is proposed that the Transit site will be managed by West Sussex County Council. • A multi-agency protocol will be agreed to manage both unauthorised encampments and arrangements for direction to the Transit site. • Management of the site will include on site supervision, daytime only entry and exit from site for caravans, pitch fees will be charged and conditions of hire agreements. • There will be controlled barrier access to the site, with CCTV , secure boundaries and screening.
What else is happening at the Depot • The depot site is being refurbished, there are some old redundant buildings which will be demolished. • We hope to create a wash bay, servicing bays and a one way system through the site. • There will be sufficient parking spaces created to replace the area taken up by the transit site. • There could be some commercial use of the site facilities for external goods vehicle services but the number of additional vehicle movements would be low.
What next? • CDC Cabinet approved a report outlining the proposals on 3 rd December. • Full Council will consider it on the 17 th December. • If approved design consultants will be appointed and detailed designs worked up. • A planning application will be made during February ‘ 14. • There will be opportunities to consult on design and to express views through the planning process.