Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change not to include so-called ‘travellers’ in our communications with you. Sadly, that’s not the case…as usual. And…as usual… ‘travellers’ have turned up again and again at Baiter Park and for a short ‘visit’ also to Copse Close and Whitecliff. The most recent incursion at Baiter occurred whilst organisers were preparing for the ‘Immense Events’ and also fun-fair last month. It resulted in a very hostile confrontation between security personnel for ‘Immense Events’ and ‘travellers.’ It reached such a situation that I phoned 999 and had to intervene directly with police officers who were blaming the council and when contacted the council it was the usual negative response. However, I did also contact via email the police commissioner, Mr Underhill to press for Section 61 removal order that can be implemented in the case of impending violence. It took Mr Underhill’s secretary over a week to reply but in the meantime Section 61 was invoked, resultant in ‘travellers’ leaving Baiter Park the ensuing day after my email. This Order needs to be sanctioned more regularly but also I ask you to contact our MP Mr Syms to demand that he becomes more vocal in amending the current farcical law that creates additional rights to ‘travellers.’ This action has been already undertaken very forcibly by a Bournemouth MP Conor Burns and certainly, our MP should be following suit. Since the removal of ‘travellers’ another Achilles heel for Baiter has been addressed by new Purbeck stone boulders being placed alongside the skateboard park to prevent access. It’s getting a bit like Fort Knox!
Dear Mr Randall,
I write you in my capacity as the geographic commander for Dorset Police across Bournemouth and Poole.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, greater partnership working is taking place between both Poole and Bournemouth Borough Councils to tackle all Traveller incursions. I am in contact with both authorities on a daily basis with regard to the most appropriate and proportionate way to deal with any incursions.
Often, civil legislation is by far the most effective way in which to cause the traveller community to move to their next destination, obtained by the Council. Section 61 legislation that you refer to, is only appropriate in certain circumstances as it does not allow for any conditions to be placed on their next destination in the same way that the Council acquired (civil) legislation does. Section 61 has been utilised this year at Baiter Park in full consultation with the Council as it was the most appropriate method. However, this simply resulted in the traveller community moving 2 miles to another location within Poole Borough.
Having conversed with the Chief Executive Officer of Poole Borough Council, we are in dialogue around the future of such incursions at Baiter. The suggestion of “target hardening” locations has been debated and is already evidenced at the Kingland Road Swimming Pool site.
The issue of traveller Incursions is one that is taken seriously, however when there appears to be a lack of immediate action to the public, this is due to the time it takes for various pieces of legalisation to be invoked. This is the legislation that takes more time to acquire through the legal process as it carries more conditions and weight, unlike Section 61 which is an immediate tool with very limiting constraints.
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First Name: Mike
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Nature of Enquiry Complaint
Message: Dear Mr Underhill, I write this to you in my capacity of Chair of Parkstone Bay Association, covering Baiter Park and Whitecliff areas of Poole. You are obviously aware that there have been regular incursions of ‘travellers’ into Poole and at Baiter Park we have suffered three such incursions to date this year at Baiter. Not only do ‘travellers’ make illegal trespass but they also cause considerable damage and put residents’/visitors safety at significant risk by driving cars/ vans at excessive speed across the grassed area and along the promenade, putting pedestrians’ lives at risk. The ‘travellers’ have no recognition of reasonable behaviour and it is particularly disappointing to see police making very cursory visits to the site. They must have witnessed anti-social behaviour as on several occasions I have witnessed the dangerous driving by ‘travellers’ whilst there has been a police presence. It is galling also to witness police officers sitting in their cars whilst this anti-social behaviour takes place, and also using a mobile phone to text whilst this behaviour carries on directly in sight. I have personally made strong representations to council officers councillors and Daily Echo. However, Poole council has requested that police invoke Section 61, but I understand this has been refused, to the disappointment of the council. Can you please explain why Section 61 has been refused, given the high level of anti-social and threatening behaviour emanated by the ‘travellers’? It appears there is little or any agreement between the police and Poole council and it plays into the hands of those who wish to impact negatively on residents who live very close to this behaviour
Date: 11 May 2018 at 10:51:33 BST
Subject: Re: Travellers in Poole park
Thank you for your email.
I shall forward your email to the the department concerned.
I shall make a few factual points which may aid your understanding together with the best advice i can give. All of the information here is fully open so feel free to pass on.
Such encampments are not in law illegal. They are unauthorised. This terminology is not splitting hairs, there is a real difference in law. Councils have no powers to evict from unauthorised encampments, nor to prosecute for the issues you outline. Councils have to act within the law.
Under the law, only the courts, and the police, have powers to evict. Only the police have the powers to prosecute for the issues you outline. I repeat: not the council. We have no powers to evict, nor to take the law into our own hands!
If you experience or witness criminal or antisocial behaviour you should contact the police. If you witness any serious crime in progress then you could dial 999.
I would also advise that it is helpful to inform the council with details of criminal and antisocial behaviour along with any evidence you may have, and to keep records, corroborated if possible. I would also advise that you note the police response to any calls for help. The council is not responsible for the actions of the police, they report to the Police and Crime Commissioner who is a separately elected official.
It is not helpful to demand of councils that which they cannot do under the law. Sometimes people lash out at councils in frustration but they are the wrong target for such vitriol. Poole council has a very good record for its management of unauthorised encampments, which usually end with eviction through the courts on council’s application, which is not by any means a straightforward process, else by the travellers simply moving on.
Furthermore, councils, under the law, have legal duties to travellers regarding health and social care, and education.
Poole council sometimes offers portaloos at encampments for the simple reason it is cheaper and more hygienic for all, than the alternative.
As Portfolio Holder I have already made representation to Government concerning the laws surrounding unauthorised encampments and these will form part of a council response to the current consultation by central government on the issue which may result in changes to the law, which the council regards as necessary. I would advise that this consultation is open to all: individuals, public bodies and residents groups included. It is online and you may wish to take the opportunity to relate your experiences there.
As for travellers gaining access, well, at the end of the day, if people are willing to undertake criminal behaviour, and perform criminal damage, either by themselves or by proxy, to enter an area or for any other reason, then in reality only so much can be done to prevent access, though there are always lessons learned.
There are cordless power tools readily available which can grind through even the strongest locks and heavy metalwork in seconds. The use of sacrificial vehicles to smash down defences even at the cost of destroying that vehicle is not unheard of. The use of plant to simply remove heavy boulders is similarly possible. I know of no police investigations leading to conviction for damage to gain entry. The laws and police practice surrounding this, and what should be, in my opinion, joint culpability, will form part of the council’s consultation response.
It is my belief that residents and the press are better served by acting in concert with local authorities in attempting to affect change in the law, rather than lashing out at those who are doing their best to help residents, under the law. Travellers are often highly cognisant of the law and of exactly what powers and duties various bodies have, and of their own rights under the law. It is, in my belief, the laws which has to change in order that councils can protect and serve their residents better in this regard.
Portfolio Holder for the environment.
Councillor, Creekmoor ward, Borough of Poole
Some you win, some you lose. Whilst Baiter Park had the first respite for a number of years from the incursions (apart from one hiccup when ‘travellers’ slunk in when the fun fair was accessing the park) it hasn’t been the same for residents in and adjacent to Copse Close. We have been in close contact with officers and councillors and hope such an incursion within our area can be avoided in the future.
Thanks to efforts and also your support, access to Harbourside Car Park 2 was restricted and I can vouch that- to date- it has been successful, personally observing on two occasions a procession of motor homes and caravans draw up outside the car park, stop, consider and then move on…to somewhere else-so thank you again for all of your support and it shows that ‘working together anything is possible’ (I took this phrase from the motto of my favourite football team –AFC Bournemouth –‘The Cherries’).
As you will be aware (certainly residents of Baiter Park) Parkstone Bay Association fought a long and often contentious debate with the council and unauthorised parking by ‘travellers’ especially at Harbourside 2 car park. I was personally able to present a petition to a full council meeting calling for narrowing the entrance and exit to Harbourside 2 car park to deter unauthorised (we cannot say ‘illegal’) campervans and caravans from pitching up and outstaying any welcome. The petition was duly accepted and this was followed by permitting me to make a four-minute presentation to the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee. We received almost unanimous backing and the next stage was for the full council to debate our proposal. Along with a large number of residents, we attended the council meeting and thanks to the support of Cllr A. Stribley (Mayor) who presided over the meeting, our item was moved to the top of a very full agenda. Over thirty councillors voted to support our motion and only one abstained.
In a nutshell, the council WILL now narrow the access points to Harbourside 2 and I have received written confirmation from a senior council officer that it will be undertaken. We have now got to maintain pressure to ensure this takes place –as well as reinstating the bollard at Whitecliff car park, which I understand was removed some years ago to accommodate some temporary portakabins.
I would personally like to thank Cllrs Stribley, Challinor (Parkstone ward), Howell and Hadley (Poole Town ward) who spoke so eloquently on behalf of residents. It’s much more positive to engage with our representatives than to be negative…although we are prepared to verbally cross swords should the justification arise