Travellers in line for own official sites

TRAVELLERS could be given approved sites to set up camps in a bid to keep them clear of private and public plots.

A search is on to find suitable areas where gypsies would be allowed to stay.

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Durham County Council hopes this would help dissuade them from using unofficial sites, which could save the taxpayer money and reduce the level of potential trouble caused to permanent residents.

It would also put the authority in a stronger position if enforcement action is needed.

A number of such sites were set up in Teesdale during Appleby Fair.

The council says they won the backing of residents and gave police and itself greater power to control encampments and minimise the effect they have on the settled community.

It is part of a different approach to the issue, which aims to recognise the impact the camps can have on the surrounding area as well as respecting the traditions of travellers.

Shotton ward councillor Robin Todd has been in talks with traveller liaison officers to help push the idea forward.

The move comes after four camps were set up in Shotton Colliery in April – at a cost to the authority of about £545 for toilet hire.

Last week the council launched court action in a bid to remove three caravans from land near Casey Tiles, in Front Street, although they moved before the hearing was held.

Three others were issued notices to leave by Thursday.

Coun Todd said: “There’s a general problem and that is that gypsies and travellers use small locations and stay there at their own leisure, regardless of the effect they have on the community and environment.

“We’ve had problems in terms of damage that’s been caused to the environment, areas of trees where bark has been stripped off, rubbish left and horses are tethered in inappropriate places and so on.

“So we want to find longer term permanent sites for travellers and hopefully they will not use private and public land to occupy in future.

“We’re in a more urbanised area so we need to get that balance right and we might have to lease or acquire land suitable,” he added.