transit site - travellers on barony park

Urgent action is being demanded to prevent unauthorised traveller sites springing up at Barony Park in Nantwich – after it was hit by its 10th encampment this year, writes Stephen Topping.

Rachel Cole, from the Friends of Barony Park, told Cheshire East Council’s cabinet that the group would be lodging a formal complaint against the authority’s lack of decisive action in protecting the park.

While recognising the council is currently considering reviving plans for a transit site at Cledford Hall in Middlewich, she warned the council that it should “not be putting all our eggs in that basket”.

Instead, she called for the council to reconsider applying for a court injunction to stop gypsies and travellers setting up camp on Barony Park or using physical barriers such as fencing or hardening.

Rachel said: “Residents deserve action now. A court injunction would allow CEC to take much swifter action.

“No preventative measures that would keep the character of the park are going to be guaranteed to work, but there is a reason that multiple councils have and continue to use them.

“If they are good enough for other areas why are they not good enough for Cheshire East?

“They act as a deterrent by making life difficult, and they require users of unauthorised encampments to break the law to set up.

“We are ready to see action, we are ready to go, we need a council that wants to be proactive as well.”

The friends group put forward a detailed list of preventative measures such as fencing to tackle the issue last month, and Rachel told councillors that more than 100 residents and businesses have given their support to the plans.

Meanwhile, Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Kieran Mullan asked the council if it had considered applying for a court injunction against unauthorised encampments at the park.

But Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, said at last month’s cabinet meeting that physical barriers were not ‘an ideal solution’ – while the authority has held off applying for an injunction after Bromley Council had an application rejected by the courts.

Cllr Arthur Moran, independent CEC member for Nantwich North and West, said: “At the present time, if we are not careful, then Barony Park will become the unofficial transit park.

“Barony Park is a public park, and every time we have visits from the travellers, Everybody Leisure loses finance from their facility on there, Ansa has to clean up and there is lots of anti-social behaviour.

“I want to know when you are actually going to take some action – quick action.”

His concerns were shared by Cllr Peter Groves, Conservative member for Nantwich South and Stapeley.

He told cabinet that both he and Nantwich residents were ‘surprised and somewhat disappointed’ by comments made to the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week by Cllr Jonathan Parry, who is opposed to the Cledford Hall plans.

CEC is now preparing to launch a consultation on the second part of the local plan from August 19 – including a proposal for 10 transit pitches at Cledford Hall.

Meanwhile, Cllr Nick Mannion, cabinet member for environment and regeneration, revealed that CEC has received independent legal advice on injunctions and that the council’s lawyers will soon issue a new recommendation.

Cllr Mick Warren, cabinet member for communities, added: “I share your concerns about these encampments causing issues for your community.

“Quite rightly you are after solutions off us – quick solutions.

“We would like to give you quick solutions but we have got to do it in a processed manner.”

In a statement last week, Councillor Nick Mannion, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for environment and regeneration, said: “The council has a responsibility to address all housing needs – including those of Gypsies and Travellers.

“It is fully aware of the impact of unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments on local communities.

“Cheshire East Council continues to explore the options for a permanent Gypsy and Traveller transit site.

“While this work is carried out, we are considering other mechanisms to deal with the increase in unauthorised encampments.

“Providing a transit site is part of the council’s draft site allocations and development policies document. The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of cabinet on 6 August.

“We recognise that this is an important issue to residents and communities and we are seeking a long-term solution.”

Cheshire East Council leader Cllr Sam Corcoran said: “I am aware of the distress and inconvenience caused by unauthorised encampments and I have been actively looking into what action can be taken by this council to address the situation.

“Whilst providing a transit sit is undoubtedly the best solution – and would strengthen the powers of the police to move on unauthorised encampments – it will take time to select the right site and develop the site. In the meantime a number of options are being looked at.

“Using physical barriers to protect specific sites is being considered – so-called ‘target hardening’. For a very open site, such as The Barony, this would be difficult and, if not done sympathetically, could make the site less attractive.

“Moreover, there have recently been unauthorised encampments in two parks in Macclesfield, which have ‘secure’ perimeters. So, target hardening measures can only be viewed as a deterrent and are not entirely effective at prevention.

“Injunctions have been suggested as a solution. However, Bromley Council recently lost a High Court case over one such injunction broadly targeting ‘unnamed persons’.

“There are concerns that this will now set a legal precedent, making similar injunctions much harder to obtain and legal advice is being sought on the future use of injunctions.

“I can’t explain why injunctions were not put in place under this council’s previous administration, before the Bromley case.

“Please be assured that solving the issue of unauthorised encampments is a high priority for the new administration at Cheshire East Council.”

6 Comments

  1. Chris B says:

    It’s only a few weeks ago that the “shoppers” who visited Jepson’s told the staff “This is how we do our shopping” as they picked up their “purchases” and headed for the door.

  2. John lynn says:

    We should Welcome all Visitors to Nantwich..and.. the Money they Spend in the Declining Town Centre Shops

  3. Kev says:

    I’d recommend you all post your concerns, queries and frustrations direct to the Police Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane. His contact details are readily available on Google.
    Having done exactly that about a week ago, I received a response this morning, and am in the process of agreeing a slot for direct discussion. I’ll be very interested to hear how years of non-action by the authorities, and an equally ineffective response by the police to ASB, is explained and justified.

  4. Dave Randall says:

    Isn’t there a national data base on how each authority tackles this problem?

    We can’t be the only town to be affected, some areas of the UK might actually have solved the issue somehow.

    Time to get heads together.

    We can’t have the average householder held to ransom over a minorities wishes, we all matter.

  5. Brendan Naylor says:

    What needs doing is what my village in Yorkshire did.
    Ring fence the accessible areas with trees six deep, in time not only are they a low maintenance barrier, but look lovely in the summer, picnic benches were placed under the canopy and it was great.

    What makes you think this Cledford site will be used, I fancy the travellers are quite thrilled to be in the town centre.

    You don’t allow children to scream and run around your own neighbourhood causing social problems, why are travellers behaving differently?

    No wonder they take the P, they think they live under different rules, oh yes actually they do!!!

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