Hartlepool’s tactics to deal with illegal traveller camps unveiled

Caravans parked at the Central Estate. Picture by FRANK REID
Caravans parked at the Central Estate. Picture by FRANK REID

Councillors are set to update the authority’s stance on illegal traveller camps.

The up-to-date Hartlepool Borough Council policy will set out what action it intends to take against unauthorised encampments.

It will take on board new government guidance and powers that have come into effect since Hartlepool’s policy was last considered in 2004.

The proposed policy sets out areas that are considered to be out of bounds for gypsy or traveller camps.

The list includes parks, public playing fields, public car parks, any open space in a residential area and public highways.

Papers that will go before the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee on Monday, state: “The report takes into consideration the updated guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March 2015 and the new power to seize vehicles which are suspected of having been involved in an offence relating to the illegal deposit of waste.

“The current unauthorised encampments policy was adopted in 2004 and was based on a common approach across the Tees Valley authorities.”

The report says Hartlepool has experienced low numbers of illegal encampments in recent years with an average of four a year.

But it goes on to say in April of this year the town saw an “unprecedented” influx of travellers.

The council received numerous calls about 25 caravans and motorhomes that set up camp on council-owned playing fields known as Central Park, on West View Road.

They had moved there from car parks near the Lanyard near the marina.

Council officers and Police Community Support Officers monitored the site and liaised with the travellers about how long they were going to stay for.

The authority considered using legal action to move them on but did not.

According to the new-look policy, circumstances which will normally result in action to clear unauthorised camps include where they cause “intolerable nuisance” to the general public.

That can be down to inadequate toilet facilities, build up or burning of rubbish, accumulations of rubbish/commercial waste and the burning of rubbish, excessive noise, intimidatory or anti-social behaviour and if the camp interferes with the land’s normal purpose.

Where encampments do not fall under the areas for action the council says it will continue to adopt a policy of tolerance.

The report adds: “It is important to deal with each encampment on an individual basis.

“Formal action will not always be necessary where acceptable departure dates can be agreed.”

The committee meeting takes place at 10am, on Monday, at Hartlepool Civic Centre and is open to the public.