Police and crime panel discusses unauthorised encampment policy

By Natalia Forero, Local Democracy Reporter

Inconsistencies over how different areas of Hampshire deal with unauthorised encampments were highlighted at a meeting of the county’s police and crime panel.


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Members raised the issue of travellers and the lack of temporary sites with Hampshire and Isle of Wight’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Donna Jones (Con), during a regular panel meeting last week.

Donna Jones LDRS 200pxLast year, Ms Jones, pictured left, suggested a plan to create temporary sites for travellers in Hampshire but this was rejected by councillors due to fears that the county would turn into ‘a Mecca for travellers’.

At the most recent meeting, Cllr Matthew Renyard (Lab, Coxford) from Southampton City Council asked the PCC if she would be willing to “revisit” her strategy based on creating a shared temporary site approach.

Cllr Renyard said: “What we’re beginning to see is an escalation [of the problem], and certainly in Southampton last year, we started as a lot of smaller groups culminating to one really large group that caused considerable damage and a real problem. Temporary sites can be a solution to that.

“I wonder if the PCC would revisit the strategy and go back to her early strategy to look at a shared temporary site approach?”

PCC Donna Jones said: “One thing the police can do under their existing powers is that if an unauthorised encampment turns up somewhere and there is an identified authorised site, the police can move them to the location immediately; they can do it straight away on the same day.

“What I said when I pulled a meeting together last year of all the councillors, cabinet members, boroughs, and solicitors was that we could look at the fourteen areas that have land in Hampshire, including the unitaries, to look at an on-call rota. So what the police could do if an encampment happens in Southampton is they would offer the site that’s available for unauthorised encampment for the next 28 days so people can go there.

golf course encampment 27 6 23 600 cropped P1040479 The encampment on the former pitch and putt golf course at Riverside Park which set up at the end of June, less than a fortnight after a larger camp left the main playing field after a week. A camp has been at the pitch and putt site for almost a month

“What that means is that the council would be able to get proper refuge, running water, sanitation toilets, and offer adequate support for people who chose to live in that way, which is their legal right. It also would mean that the council can assess the sites and clear them up at the end of the 28-day or 30-day period.

“I did put that to council leaders last year as a way to prevent this. But the downside of that, of course, is that if it becomes known across the UK, you then might end up becoming a Mecca, so I think that was the concern of council leaders at the time.

“I am really happy to put this on the agenda for our September meeting, but there wasn’t any support for that at all.”

Chairman, Seán Woodward, mentioned the incident in Gosport in which one group camped for four days and, as a result, local pubs and businesses closed due to antisocial behaviour. Police took four days to enforce powers there, while in Fareham, another group were issued an ‘instant disposal’.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘The situation we had in Fareham and Gosport highlighted the disparity between how they dealt with.

“I think we need consistency in how this is dealt with, and I think the bar needs to be precise.

“If you read the legislation and look at how it is dealt with locally, there is sometimes a bit of a mismatch because the legislation talks about issues with the community, numbers and criminality.

“I think it would be helpful to have a consistent approach so we don’t hear from a colleague in Gosport; why is Fareham had that done, and it took a week in Gosport?”

The PCC supported the initiative and added that she would do whatever she could to ensure consistency.

Last year Portsmouth, Waterlooville in Havant, New Forest and Eastleigh saw the highest number of encampments with 15, 14, 12 and 10, respectively.

So far this financial year, police have been informed about 45 unauthorised (UEs) encampments across Hampshire.

Data presented at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight crime and police panel (July 21) showed that the New Forest was the district that reported more UEs with 11 reports.


ldrs logo 200px This article is from the Local Democracy Reporting Service or Shared Data Unit. Some alterations and additions may have been made by our site, which is a partner in the BBC's Local News Partnerships scheme. LDRS journalists are funded by the BBC to cover local authorities and other public service organisations, and content is shared with all partners.

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