Cheshire East Council has taken action to reduce the level of illegal Traveller encampments in the Borough.
Cheshire East has experienced a significant rise in the number of illegal encampments across the authority, with 78 being reported between January 1 and November 3 of this year.
These encampments have had a significant impact – not only on local residents but also on businesses too.
The police have been unable to use their legal powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to move Travellers on from encampments due to the fact that Cheshire East does not have a publicly-owned transit site which police can direct Travellers to.
This is something which the Council has been keen to rectify and has identified as a key priority.
A spokesperson for Cheshire East said a recent Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessment had identified a requirement of between five and 10 transit pitches.
Cheshire East took active steps to commission a site identification study, with the aim of finding a suitable site which could be put through the planning process.
A site has been identified on Cledford Lane, Middlewich, which has the potential to accommodate 10 pitches and is being progressed currently through the pre-application stage of the planning process. Cheshire East is in negotiations with the owners of the site with a view to purchasing it.
Councillor Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “Cheshire East will not tolerate illegal encampments.
“They can have a detrimental impact on an area, resulting in significant clear-up costs – not only for the authority but also for businesses and residents.
“We, however, recognise that we have to make provision to enable the Gypsy and Traveller communities, who are passing through, a safe and secure location in which to stay on a temporary basis.”
Cheshire East will manage the transit site and those located on the site will pay rent and service charges.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cabinet member in charge of localism and enforcement, said: “Cheshire East is experiencing a substantial rise in the number of illegal encampments across the authority.
“Incidents have more than doubled – with 38 in 2012, 70 last year and 78 so far this year since January – which has had financial implications for the authority and private landowners. Failure to make adequate provision could lead to further increased levels of unlawful encampments.
“Cheshire East Council wants to reassure our residents and businesses that we are committed to providing, as a priority, a transit site to reduce the level of illegal encampments and to enable the police to use their powers, under the Criminal Justice and Public Order act 1994, to direct Travellers on to more appropriate sites.
“This will reduce the negative impact on residents and local businesses. If the Travellers refuse to move to such sites they have to leave the local authority area and cannot return for three months. While occupying the transit site, they will have to pay for services, including rent.
“Living in illegal encampments also has implications for the Gypsy and Traveller communities themselves, as the lack of suitable facilities creates problems in terms of access to health and education and we wish to address these too.”