Council back to the drawing board again over travellers site

The area of the Cattle Market in Bideford proposed as a temporary travellers' site.
The area of the Cattle Market in Bideford proposed as a temporary travellers' site.

Torridge District Council has once again drawn a blank as to where to house travellers in Bideford.

The council’s community and resources committee met on Monday, where they were asked to approve a recommendation to create a temporary travellers’ site at the cattle market in Bideford.

The decision would have cost the council £20,000 to make the old animal pens suitable for use, but members once again sent the Gypsy and Traveller Working Group (GTWG) back to the drawing board.

Torridge District Council first put a call out for suitable sites in January 2017, but after an extensive consultation by consultants DLP Planning Ltd last year, no permanent spots have yet been found.

In a report to the council ahead of Monday’s meeting, TDC’s customer support manager Simon Toon said after further review, both Bank End, and a possible site at Caddsdown previously identified, were unsuitable.

Councillor Peter Christie said: “I’m afraid I’m absolutely against the continuing use of this site. It sits closely to a large residential area and a primary school and seems to be a choice of desperation.

“Historically travellers rarely visited Bideford, though their visits seem to have increased since this tolerated trespass site was established.”

Former Bideford mayor, Councillor Dermot McGeough, was the only councillor to join protestors at Riverbank House last year and said he ‘strongly opposed’ the cattle market site being used.

“I do not endorse any of the recommendations which are laid before me,” he said.

“Back to the drawing board with a pro-active approach, not a reactive ‘that’ll do’ approach.”

But Councillor Cathrine Simmons, chairman of the GTWG, said: “We must tackle this situation and go forward.

“Historically we are not a hotspot for large numbers of gypsies and travellers but we should recognise that we need sites both temporary and permanent, but only a small number.

“If managed correctly it will have limited cost to the council, charges and fees can cover the maintenance costs.”

Members of the committee agreed neither the cattle market or the Riverbank car park site could be officially designated as interim ‘tolerated trespass’ sites.

In a poll on our website, more than 200 people agreed, with 88 per cent in favour of neither site being used.

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