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Blueprint to tackle illegal traveller camps approved
7:50pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
TRAVELLERS on illegal camps will have to abide by a code of conduct and will be given two weeks to leave before facing legal action, leading councillors have agreed.
A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard the move would be part of a concerted drive to tackle concerns unauthorised camps generate in nearby settled communities and improve the health and wellbeing of travellers.
Latest figures show the council’s Customer Service Centre received 48 reports of illegal camps between October 2011 and September 2012, while other reports may have been made to its highways department.
The meeting heard historically the authority’s responses to unauthorised camps had been inconsistent and there was a need to balance the needs and legal rights of all communities in the county.
One of the reasons the issue particularly affects the county is due to the A1 and A19 being key routes for travellers heading to fairs and other events.
Richard Flinton, the authority’s chief executive, said travellers attending the North Yorkshire and York Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and Showmen Wider Forum earlier this year cited the absence of transit or short-stay sites in the county as the principle cause of illegal camps.
Councillors were told of other agreed principles, such as removing illegal camps in locations which have been identified as unacceptable, particularly where environmental damage could occur such as village greens, as quickly as the law allowed and without legal action.
Mr Flinton said rapid action would save on legal and possible clear-up costs as well as officers’ time.
The executive also agreed to strive to reduce friction between people on illegal camps and local communities and meet the welfare needs of travellers more cost effectively, to reduce the need for more costly and less effective interventions later.
Councillor Carl Les, the authority’s deputy leader, said the changes represented a more joined-up response to dealing with illegal camps and called for the system to be reviewed next year.
Councillor Chris Metcalfe said: “Illegal campsites are sometimes a minefield to deal and by identifying sites that are totally unacceptable we are bringing some clarity to the issue.”
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