Councillors are being asked to spend £20,000 on a new temporary travellers’ site in Bideford - but it is being called a ‘choice of desperation’ by some members.
Torridge District Council’s community and resources committee are being asked to support using the old animal pens at the cattle market as an interim site.
Despite a need to find sufficient sites for travellers within Torridge, and an extensive consultation by consultants DLP Planning Ltd last year, no suitable spots have yet been identified.
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, were unsuitable.
He said: “Having reviewing the limited range of potential options, the Gypsy and Traveller Working Group (GTWG) believe that the former animal pens within the cattle market car park, Bideford, provide the most practical interim tolerated trespass solution, while work continues to find more permanent and long term provision.”
Mr Toon said the site was further from residential properties than the previous spot favoured by travellers, but would require £20,000 worth of works.
He added: “It should be noted that this would only ever be an interim solution as the wider cattle market site is earmarked for comprehensive regeneration and redevelopment over the coming years to provide enhanced recreation provision.”
However, not all members of the district council agree with the choice of site.
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 and said he ‘strongly opposed’ the cattle market site being used.
“At the protest of which TDC was given prior notice, the lack of representation from the lead member was duly noted by our residents and did not go a miss,” he said.
“I do not endorse any of the recommendations which are laid before me.
“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.”
In August 2017, the council agreed to a ‘tolerated trespass site’ at Bank End in Bideford, due to a need to better manage unauthorised encampments of gypsies and travellers.
Previously travellers had been unofficially tolerated at the cattle market site, but this had caused outrage from residents living nearby, and the council also hopes to develop the site in the coming years.
But the decision to use Bank End as a temporary site was met with much opposition from the town, with a protest organised at Riverbank House in October last year.
Following this and a petition with some 377 signatures handed to the council, members made a u-turn and voted to go back to the drawing board at the community and resources committee meeting in December.
Members will be voting on the site at the community and resources meeting at Bideford Town Hall on Monday, June 4.