Council leader says proposed temporary travellers’ site at Bank End car park is ‘best option available’

The protest against the temporary travellers' site in Bideford this afternoon (Thursday).The protest against the temporary travellers' site in Bideford this afternoon (Thursday).

The leader of Torridge District Council (TDC) has responded following a protest which saw dozens rally against plans for a temporary travellers’ site.

Protestors gathered outside the council’s Riverbank House offices on Thursday over a decision to make the Bank End car park a temporary travellers’ site last month.

The protest saw residents air concerns over a lack of public consultation, fears over littering and safety and the site’s location in the centre of town. At the time these were addressed by TDC’s head of paid services, Jenny Wallace, and customer support manager, Simon Toon.

Councillor Jane Whittaker was unable to answer questions put to the council by protestors due to a meeting of Torridge’s Harbour Board, but followed up with a statement on behalf of the council.

The protest against the temporary travellers' site in Bideford this afternoon (Thursday).The protest against the temporary travellers' site in Bideford this afternoon (Thursday).

She said the council had taken the decision after ‘very careful deliberation’ and said ‘priorities must lie’ with local residents near the former site at the old cattle market who had complained.

She also reiterated the council’s legal requirement to provide facilities for travellers where no permanent site exists.

Cllr Whittaker said: “Many complainants have referred to the Bank End site as ‘prime riverside frontage’ when in fact for some years it has been the local skate park, and is currently being used as a compound for the building works taking place at Riverbank House.

“We do have a legal requirement to provide facilities for travellers where no permanent site exists and we hope residents will accept that this temporary, I re-emphasise temporary site, is the best option currently available.

The protest against the temporary travellers' site in Bideford this afternoon (Thursday).The protest against the temporary travellers' site in Bideford this afternoon (Thursday).

“If we do not provide a temporary tolerated trespass site then the few travellers that come to the area would still do so, and park up wherever they wished, which would be much worse.”

READ MORE: Protesters march on council office to oppose plans for temporary travellers’ site.

Cllr Whittaker said she expected the need for the temporary site to diminish as the travelling season nears its end, and are considering using the site for boat storage in the winter months.

Attending Thursday’s protest was Bideford mayor Dermot McGeough, and deputy mayor Doug Bushby, who are both against the plans.

Mr McGeough, who is also a district councillor for Bideford North but attended in his role as mayor, said he would be handing a petition against the site, so far signed by around 200 people, in at the next TDC full council meeting.

He added: “I feel very passionately about this and I don’t agree with the site being in this car park.

“If it’s going to be in Bideford I feel it should be at Caddsdown.”