The Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Service operated by Dorset Council helps local councils, the police, local landowners and the Gypsy and Traveller community in this partnership working.
The service we offer includes:
- liaising with Travellers and landowners, acting as a go-between
- providing advice and support to landowners and the settled community
- acting as a first point of contact for Travellers for health, welfare, housing and education issues
- working in partnership to provide permanent and transit pitches on the county's gypsy site
Why more authorised sites are needed for gypsies and travellers
Over the centuries, more and more traditional stopping places have been closed up or sold for development.
There are not enough authorised pitches available to cater for the current and projected future needs of the travelling communities. This can lead to unauthorised encampments where land is used by Gypsies and Travellers without the permission of the owner.
It also causes unauthorised development, which is where land is owned by Gypsies and Travellers but does not have planning permission from the local authority.
Why councils have to identify sites
The Housing Act 2004 requires all councils to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople. Government advice in Planning Policy for Traveller Sites(2012) sets out a process by which councils should identify appropriate sites to meet these needs.
Dorset councils jointly conducted a new Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment in 2013, which identifies a need for additional pitches from 2013 to 2028 across the Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset area. The council must now identify potential sites to meet the identified needs.
More generally, the council have a duty to promote good race relations, equality of opportunity and community cohesion. Helping to identify opportunities for Travellers to buy or rent a culturally appropriate home will help fulfil this duty.
How Dorset Council will provide the pitches that are needed
Dorset Council is working with planning consultants Peter Brett Associates to produce a Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Development Plan Document (DPD).
This is a planning document that will allocate suitable sites for Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople to live on or stay temporarily if they are travelling through the area. Public consultation on the proposed sites will take place at various stages throughout the process.
Types of site needed
There are three main types of sites: transit sites, residential or 'permanent' sites and Travelling Showpeople sites.
Transit sites are authorised sites that are used for short stays by Gypsies and Travellers. The sites are usually provided on a permanent basis by local authorities and have basic amenities and services, such as water supply, shared toilets, washing facilities/utility room and waste disposal.
They may be used for days or weeks, up to a maximum of three months. Gypsies and Travellers have to pay for a pitch on a transit site.
Residential sites or 'permanent sites'
Residential sites or 'permanent sites' are either provided by local authorities or are owned by Gypsies and Travellers themselves. The sites are used as long-term residences. Sites often contain a number of separate pitches, occupied by each Gypsy or Traveller household, although single pitch sites are also common. Council-owned residential sites are managed by either the local authority or a local housing partner and have a number of amenities, including water supply, electricity, individual toilets and utility rooms.
Travelling Showpeople sites
Travelling Showpeople sites often need to combine residential, storage and maintenance uses. Typically a site comprises areas set aside for the Showpeople's accommodation - usually caravans and mobile homes - and areas where vehicles and fairground equipment can be stored, repaired and occasionally tested.
Many Showpeople's sites are run on a private rental basis with one Showperson acting as landlord to their fellow Showpeople. Alternatively, land is bought and subdivided into half acre 'plots' or 'yards', which are then sold on to other Showpeople.