Agenda item - Traveller Commissioning Strategy: Three Years On

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Agenda item

Traveller Commissioning Strategy: Three Years On

Report of the Acting Executive Director of Environment, Development & Housing (copy attached).


1)           That the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee notes the progress made, achievements and challenges in delivering the strategy (Appendix 1).


2)           That the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee notes the progress made in implementing the Scrutiny Panel recommendations (Appendix 2).



44.1      The Committee considered a report of the Acting Executive Director Environment, Development & Housing that provided an annual monitoring update on the Traveller Commissioning Strategy in accordance with the recommendations of the Traveller Scrutiny Panel held in 2012.


44.2      Councillor Theobald stated that the issue of Traveller’s was an important one in the Patcham ward he represented and he had been asked by residents to raise a number of questions. Councillor Theobald stated that although there was central government guidance on traveller sites, this was not a directive as to the minimum number. Councillor Theobald noted that there was no mention in the strategy regarding fly-tipping and the condition that sites should be left in. Councillor Theobald asked for an update as to progress on the Horsdean site as he understood there had been a number of issues relating to drilling under the A27 that could lead to increase cost. Councillor Theobald noted that under Section 62 of their powers, Sussex Police could only direct unauthorised encampments to within the Brighton & Hove boundary. This put Brighton & Hove at a disadvantage as the city boundary was much smaller than neighbouring authorities such as East and West Sussex. Councillor Theobald asked if the legislation on this issue could be looked at and amended to reflect Police areas as opposed to local authority boundaries.


44.3      The Housing Strategy Manager clarified that in relation to the Horsdean site, there had been an issue drilling under the A27 but the work was still scheduled to meet the timetable for completion in June 2016. In relation to central government guidance on site provision, the Planning Manager stated that national policy did require the authority to undertake a gypsy and traveller area assessment and to produce a technical report on the number of spaces required. In the Brighton & Hove administrative area, this had been set at 32. Brighton & Hove City Council had to demonstrate whether it could meet that requirement and as with general housing, it may be that the council could not provide evidence that it could meet that requirement. The council would then have a duty in co-operation with other local authorities to examine methods to provide that unmet requirement. With regard to site refuse and fly-tipping on unauthorised encampments, the Head of Tenancy Services stated this was a problem and one that officers attempted to resolve by speaking with the community about the impact, cost and community relations of fly-tipping and site condition. In terms of prosecution on fly-tipping, it was very difficult to gather evidence that could identify the perpetrators although there had been some successful prosecutions. The Head of Tenancy Services added that she was aware that Cityclean would be enacting a strategy on waste enforcement in general and fly-tipping on unauthorised encampments would come under this strategy.  There would also be a report coming to a future committee re-procuring the traveller waste management contract and measures on accountability would be specified within that. On the matter of Section 62 Order’s, officers would welcome a change allowing direction of unauthorised encampments to outside the Brighton & Hove area due to its limited size but this was a national legislation that could only be changed by central government.


44.4      Councillor Theobald thanked officers for their contributions and asked if the issues detailed could be formally included in the Traveller Strategy.


44.5      The Housing Strategy Manager stated that this matter could be looked at for the Action Plan over the course of the next year.


44.6      The Chair supplemented that this was also an issue that could be included within the Planning Framework as it was a legitimate cross county border issue.


44.7      Councillor West stated that the challenges of lack of engagement and marginalisation demonstrated the urgent need for proper provision and he had a sense of frustration that the process of doing so had taken so long. Councillor West noted that the needs assessment had demonstrated that an additional 32 pitches were required and he hoped that the process of doing so would be quicker and more positive than had been the case for the Horsdean site. Councillor West supplemented that there was much to celebrate within the report and he expressed his commendation for work officers had undertaken with the traveller community on domestic and sexual violence, work on traveller health and work upon promoting the history of travellers in education.


44.8      Councillor Atkinson stated that the report covered an emotional and complex issue. Councillor Atkinson stated that this led to occasional difficult situations for the travelling community, local community and council officers but undoubtedly, Sussex Police and Traveller Liaison Team were doing everything possible to minimise these. Councillor Atkinson felt one area improvement might be the clear reporting to residents as the issue could often get misconstrued.


44.9      Councillor Robins noted that he had been a member of the original Scrutiny Panel; the result was a superb piece of work on the way forward. Councillor Robins stated that there was a tendency to marginalise the traveller and gypsy community in discussion of the matter. Councillor Robins noted that he suspected many councillors had not spoken to traveller communities even though many were from or based in Brighton and Hove. Councillor Robins stated that there would be a benefit for councillors to speak directly to the community as a method of serious engagement and not do so through a third-party. 


44.10   Councillor Janio stated that he endorsed the comments made by Councillor Robins adding that he was a supporter of a permanent traveller site although perhaps not in the current location. Councillor Janio stated that councillors had a duty to break down the barrier that currently existed. In reference to the needs assessment, Councillor Janio asked for a clear steer on what the council was mandated to do with regarded to sites.


44.11   The Planning Manager stated that the council was mandated to look at requirements for need, with a technical study to examine how to meet the identified requirement.


44.12   RESOLVED-


1)        That the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee notes the progress made, achievements and challenges in delivering the strategy (Appendix 1).


2)        That the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee notes the progress made in implementing the Scrutiny Panel recommendations (Appendix 2).


Supporting documents:


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