More Gypsy and Traveller Sites Required

Cornwall Council has been awarded £1.24m by the Housing and Communities Agency (HCA) to provide further Gypsy and Traveller sites in Cornwall. Under the Government guidelines Cornwall Council needs to provide an extra 75 residential and 40 transitional sites for the travelling community. Click HERE for the definition of a Gypsy or Traveller.

No new sites have yet (as far as I am aware) been identified, but my understanding the plan could be to legalize some of the current un-authorised sites, or allow other smaller sites of 5-10 pitches to be built. Currently Cornwall Council via the housing department manages three residential Gypsy sites in Redruth, Camborne and Liskeard.

Radio Cornwall did a piece on this subject a few days ago, and from the responses during the call in it seems most were in support of more sites being provided. But is this representative of the population, or do the silent majority have a different view? It could be the public has really changed its attitude on Gypsy and Traveller sites, but I fear it is more of the case of ‘yes let’s have more, as long as it is not in my backyard’.

For instance, six years ago in 2006, there was an idea to place a gypsy site in Leedstown, near Helston. Three hundred residents filled a church hall to overflowing to protest at a feared council proposal to create a camp for travellers. So many converged on the Methodist church schoolroom that a second meeting had to be held for those who could not squeeze in for the first one. The proposals for a gypsy site never went ahead.

I think the key to this issue is making sure any proposed site has the local community supporting it in the first place. What happens if a local community is against the plans; how much power will local people have to veto the creation of these sites in their areas, as the Council is planning most sites around Council owned land. Would this mean Cornwall Council face months of angry residents’ meetings to keep these sites away from their homes, schools and communities in general.

In the end Cornwall Council could just says a site will be going here, and you will just have to deal with it. This will be bad for both sides, as the local community will resent the site, which in turn would make it harder for the (traveller) residents of the site to be part of that community.

Convincing people a site near them is a good idea might be difficult due to people’s perceptions on Gypsy and Traveller sites. I don’t think programs like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, or the recent news coverage, and long legal battle at Dale Farm have helped people change their views, or dispelled many of the myths surrounding Gypsy and Travellers.

I think Cornwall Council needs to quickly identify any potential sites, start talking to the town or parish council, including the Cornwall Councillor, but most of all talk to the people who live in the vicinity. If not, all hell is likely to breakout.

If this isn’t the right way, what is? Travellers are an issue that won’t just ‘move on’. So, what is the solution?

14 comments

  • anon

    So what are the myths. Ihave lived near travellor sitesin the past and it is no myth that crime has gone up and subsequently gone down when they have moved on.

  • Gill Martin

    Has it been established as to whether or not the sites would be made available to have travellers/gypsies on them on a permanent basis, or just for those passing through. People are more likely to be accepted into a community if they enrol their children into school etc because they are there on a permanent basis. The fact remains that some travellers/gypsies do not take a pride in the area that they reside in if it is only on a temporary basis.This is turn tends to create a socially divisive problem within local communities.
    I think you are perfectly correct in saying that that many people will in principle agree with sites being made available providing it is not in their back yard. Regards locations, I would like to think, that if Cornwall Council deemed a particular area suitable for a site, then they would be capable of ascertaining as to whether or not any concerns of local residents are a genuine cause for concern that would need to be addressed, or whether it was just a case of not in my back yard.

  • janemac

    sadly i dont think there is an answer to this thorny problem, like you said, most people are happy for the sites as long as they arent within their locale. i can remember when recently a small group of travellers illegally occupied the field just down from the Premier Inn, the mess that was left was appalling, but not sure who was left with the tab for cleaning it up.

    there is also the issue that the sites allocated arent always where the travellers want it to be.

    i hope the council will have representatives from both sides during the consultation process, so everyone will have their say.

    good luck!

  • Gill Martin

    They could have a site in St Dennis as they have already started on an access road.
    Alternatively they could have one in Cury or Mullion, there is a nice big car park that is usually half empty, after all, the estate agents advertise Mullion as a sought after village, so I cannot visualize travellers/gypsies objecting, the argument there I suppose, would be that it might affect tourism, although that is debatable.

    In theory, if the sites are going to provide facilities to be charged for, such as electric/water and waste disposal then there would be no excuse for rubbish to left behind.

    From experience, I have to agree with the first anon comment, regarding the possible crime rate.

  • Joyce Duffin

    Over the last couple of years in my division (Mount Hawke and Portreath) we have had 2 unathorised gypsy sites. (In fact central gov’t recommend that where there are no available sites (like Cornwall) then gypsy/travellers should purchase a small piece of land and apply to stay there.)
    Local residents get very angry that they could not get planning permission for their land but that gypsy/travellers can. Often these sites are not ideal. Being greenfield sites, they don’t have any toilets/drainage etc. There is also no legislation that can stop another gypsy/traveller buying the neighbouring field and moving there and so on, until there is a whole line joining one village to the next.
    If/when the council has more sites available gypsies/travellers will be told they can’t live on greenfield sites but will be moved to council sites.
    On another point, I’m sure we all want to see all human beings with proper toilet/shower facilites, rubbish bins etc that they will pay for. If they don’t behave they can be moved off.
    The council have learnt alot about keeping sites small; for a couple of families. This makes it much better for integration into the local community and also for the schools. These children deserve a better standard of living than many currently receive.

    But sadly, I too believe that the council will find it very hard to provide these sites due to local opposition. Most of these gypsy families are Cornish. Where are all the people who so loudly shout about rights for Cornish people!

    Joyce Duffin
    Cornwall Councillor for Mount Hawke and Portreath

  • A. Pikey

    It seems to me the government and councils change their policies on gypsies and travellers according to what suits them at the time. My late father came from a gypsy family and when they finished travelling they bought their own field, but the council wanted them off it, so offered them council rented accommodation. Subsequently the field was sold and to no surprise B&Q got planning permission to build on the land.

    The councils should supply small sites for gypsies/travellers but they should also make sure that the occupiers of the pitches abide by the rules. This however is very difficult to enforce when pitches are occupied on a short temporary basis before the occupiers move on.

    My fathers family were not called “do as you likeys” for no reason.

  • Cara Van

    Having had a gypsy father and I have a non gypsy mother, I can appreciate both sides of the problem. From my point of view they are two completely different cultures, my parents had to agree to disagree on many points. I think when consultation is put in progress with the council for these sites, if at all possible, any potential occupiers of the proposed sites, should attend the meetings with the local residents. There is always fear of the unknown, and if they could meet each other within the discussions, it could help dispel any concerns local residents may have. They may have representatives for the gypsy/travelling community at meetings, but I feel it would be far more productive to have some potential site occupiers there themselves.
    Human nature tends to make some people pre judge others, but often when meeting people it gives one a different perspective on a particular issue.

    Regarding locations for sites, ideally they should be spread evenly throughout the county,

  • Gill Martin

    You state, that as far as you are aware, no new sites have yet been identified. You additionally state though, that the council is planning most sites around council owned land. Therefore, I suggest, that the council must have a pretty good idea where the proposed sites are. They must know where their own land is!! they additionally must know where the current un-authorized sites are that they are contemplating legalizing.
    Incidentally, what is the council doing owning all this land, and what is it currently used for, car parks maybe.

  • Charlie Dymond

    If the council make unauthorized sites legal, will they be laying on facilities such as water and electric and rubbish disposal and how feasible will this be in some of the current locations. Having taken the £1.24m, isn’t it a bit of a financial cop out to make legal the sites that were already there, unless there is a dramatic improvement made to them.

    You say, do the silent majority have a different view from those who are in support of the sites.
    Possibly, but you are unlikely to find out until it comes to consultation and the location of the sites are disclosed.

    As for my opinion, I don’t care where they put the sites, as long as Cornwall Council take full responsibility for any incurred costs, and don’t try passing them on, like the toilets, so that the cost ends up with the local town/parish council and residents.

  • Charlie Dymond

    Picking up on the comment by Gill Martin, second from the top, which questions whether the sites would be permanent or for people passing through, good question. You say, the government ‘guidlines’ are that Cornwall needs 75 residential sites and 40 transitional sites, yet there is no mention as to if this recommendation is going to be anywhere near met by Cornwall Council. You mention legalizing current unuathorized sites, but would they be residential or transitional. At least one unauthorized site was inhabited by travellers for years but they eventually moved on and yet the same site is now being used again. So would that be classed as residential or transitional. How long is residential. Picking up on the first anon comment. I think the crime rate would more likely be a problem asscociated with transitional sites. Whilst I don’t really care where they put the sites, I do care how efficiently the sites are run, as this is what would impact on local communities. Picking up on the comment by janemac, I also remember the mess left behind by the Premier Inn.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Hi Charlie,

    I doubt very much if the £1.2m will be enough meet the need under the guidelines.

    As for where, and what type of site I don’t know. The working group that is working on this is not open to the public, nor most councillors, other than those who sit on it.

    I wrote a post back in April 2010 on some of the proposed sites which was in some paperwork that I acquired. As you would imagine, publicising that information did not go down well.

    The post can be found here: http://www.cllrandrewwallis.co.uk/2010/04/16/gypsy-and-traveller-camps/

    There are a lot of unknowns, hence my comment to start to talk to people as soon as possible.

  • Gill Martin

    Publicizing that information went down really well with me. (your previous 2010 blog) I read it. That is exactly what is wrong with many of the councillors that make up Cornwall Council, they do not keep the public informed. They withhold information if they assess that it will be conducive to opposition. Then when eventually the information is released, it very often leads to distrust by the public, as they think there was an ulterior motive in trying to keep it quiet initially. Being cynical, I believe there very often is.

  • Charlie

    I stand corrected on the money issue. With reference to keeping the public informed, information should be released as and when it evolves. Withholding information until as late as possible with the excuse, so as not to worry the public unduly, or ‘we’ have not decided yet, only serves to cause anger with some of the public, as they assume this is a ploy to try to partly establish things by the back door. If the council consider the public may be worried, then is that not an admission that they may be a problem to worry about. The anon comments on your previous post on this subject (2010) are a typical example of exactly the menatlity that Cornwall Council could do without.

  • Joyce Duffin

    Cara Van, I think you are so right. If the sites are for permanent residence then the families should meet the local residents. It will clear out any pre-conceived ideas before they start.

    A lot of work goes on before a planning application is submitted. If the developer has any good sense he will speak to the neighbours and the parish council before the application is submitted. I guess the same has to be said for the Council. They will want to make sure that the proposed sites meet the criteria (location, access to facilities, suitable for water/drainage, environmental issues etc) before they continue with the process. They are committed to consulting with the local communities before the planning application is processed.

Please feel free to leave a comment to the post, as I like to hear your views! However, comments that do not meet the rules of the site (found in Blog Disclaimer) will not be published. Furthermore, all comment need to be approved by admin before publication.