Renewed calls for more temporary travellers’ sites in Cambridgeshire

A travellers' encampment in Cambridgeshire. Picture: Ian Carter

A travellers' encampment in Cambridgeshire. Picture: Ian Carter - Credit: Archant

There are renewed calls for new temporary sites for travellers in Cambridgeshire as councillors say “more and more” are visiting every year.

Cambridgeshire currently has a lack of transit sites where travellers visiting an area can stay without either setting up on a site permanently, or camping illegally on private land or on public green space.

Last month, South Cambridgeshire District Council heard a plea from Milton & Waterbeach district councillor Hazel Smith, who said the way traveller families were treated was “unforgivable” and that there needed to be more transit sites where they could stay when passing through an area.

No sites have yet been decided, but councillors are beginning to think about possible locations should new transit sites be brought in.

Councillor Bridget Smith, who is the Liberal Democrat leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council and represents Gamlingay ward, said more travellers were parking illegally than before, and that it was potentially upsetting for villagers.

She said: “This year, we had more illegal pitching. It is an issue that gets worse year on year. At least people can stay in transit sites instead of on public spaces.

“It is an issue for everybody. Nobody wants an illegal encampment in their village. It costs money and causes upset for local people. It is not desirable.”

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“If there was a transit site, it could accommodate people instead. Travelling is their lifestyle, but we don’t want it impacting on villages.”

Conservative district councillor Peter Topping. who represents Thriplow and Heathfield as part of his Whittlesford seat, said he supported the idea of ‘pre-injunctions’ which prevented people from parking caravans on village greens or sports grounds. He said he was worried temporary sites could soon be used as permanent sites.

Councillor Topping said: “South Cambridgeshire should be standing up for its villages. To be blunt, there are already sites that were supposed to be transit sites which have become permanent ones. With the best will in the world, and with the best intentions, the temporary sites can become permanent ones.

“I have been amazed by the strength of feeling from parish councils who have had a traveller visitation.”

Mrs Smith said proper enforcement would be the way to combat this and ensure transit sites remained temporary locations rather than becoming permanent sites.