PETERSFIELD Town Council is considering a push for a permanent travellersÕ campsite at Butser Hill, to take full advantage of proposed new legislation.
Councillor John Crowhurst told a meeting of the full council on Monday that if the TravellersÕ Law Reform Bill was passed, legislation would give police greater powers to evict travellers from illegal campsites if there was a legitimate campsite available.
He said the town council would have to be prepared to take advantage of the change, which could also alleviate the clean-up costs of illegal camps.
After the meeting he told The Herald: ÒWe must recognise the risks that we have and the only way forward is to anticipate new government proposals.Ó
The only way he felt this could be done was through discussions with East Hampshire District Council. ÒI was told by other members of the council that it is scaremongering. It is not scaremongering, it is facing the realities of the situation.Ó
Mr Crowhurst suggested an area travellers have used on the old Portsmouth Road, above the Butser cutting and the quarry, could be adapted for a permanent campsite.
ÒIt is quite unseen by the public and is lost in the background because of the height of the hill. It would not be a blot on the countryside.
Mr Crowhurst raised fears for another ten sites in Petersfield he felt could be targetted by the travellers. The Avenue was one such site he felt was particularly at risk.
ÒThe Avenue is vulnerable,Ó said Mr Crowhurst. ÒIf the travellers could occupy the coal yard and the old gas works site, then The Avenue must be at risk.
ÒSome weeks ago I had telephone calls from residents at Borough Grove who had some travellers looking at their land and they were worried,Ó he added.
Petersfield Town Council delayed further discussion on the issue until results of an EHDC questionnaire had been published.
But Mark Reed, head of environmental health at EHDC, said that they were not conducting a questionnaire.
EHDC has produced a leaflet setting out a ÒCode for Travellers, which will be handed out to travellers on all future encampments in the district, regardless of whose land they are on.
The leaflet recognises the right of travellers to live a nomadic way of life, but makes it clear that nuisance or harm to others will not be tolerated.
ÒThe code gives details of what is expected in terms of behaviour, but firmly places the onus on travellers to act reasonably and keep the site tidy,Ó said Mr Reed.
ÒIt points out that the extent to which EHDC will be tolerant is very much in their hands. In the event that they breach the new code, they can expect robust action from the council (where it is our land) to evict them.Ó
A copy is being sent to all town and parish clerks in East Hampshire, for information.
Mr Reed said: ÒIt is hoped that if we all try to follow the spirit of the code, then there will be a greater degree of consistency in the way traveller encampments are managed across the district.Ó
An advisory leaflet for local residents and businesses within the immediate vicinity of encampent, is also in the pipeline.
ÒWhen it is published in a few weeksÕ time, the leaflet will explain what the council can and canÕt do and the process it has to got through in order to obtain evictions,Ó said Mr Reed.
ÒIt is hoped that this will help affected communities to understand the difficulties faced by the council and to address many of the questions which we are most often asked about how we deal with encampments.Ó
The arrival of travellers in Petersfield earlier this year caused uproar in the town.
The clean-up operation at sites they chose at Penns Place and The Heath is thought to have cost at least £1,000, as specialists worked for days to clear up what they said was one of the worst cases that they had ever seen.
The councilÕs leaflet says it will take a tolerant approach to travellers as long as they abide by the code, which includes the following provisions:
The size of the group should not be too large for the site, and must be agreed with the council officer who visits.
No trade-type waste should be dumped and left at the site.
All human and animal waste must be dealt with in a safe and hygienic manner and not left in the open air.
Animals such as dogs, goats and horses, must be kept under control at all times.
Occupants must respect the environment and surrounding property.
Continuous occupation of the same site by consecutive groups is not acceptable.
A date of departure, once agreed with the appointed officer, must be kept.
The code ends: ÒAny deliberate breach of the above is likely to result in the immediate eviction of those encamped.Ó