Calls for temporary Gypsy and traveller site in Dorset

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Media captionA new site would be an interim measure while a longer term solution was found

There are calls for a new temporary transit site to be opened for the Gypsy and traveller community in Dorset.

Dorset's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and some county councillors are backing the plan following several unauthorised sites in the county.

These include at Weymouth park and ride, Radipole Park and West Parley recreation ground.

County councillors will present a report to the council's environment overview committee on 1 October.

'Experienced difficulties'

In 2010, all nine councils in Dorset teamed up in a bid to identify sites for travellers up until 2025.

About 30 sites were put out to public consultation and all were rejected by the local authorities.

Dorset County Council says it will take some years before the scheme becomes a formally adopted planning policy.

Hilary Cox, the county council's cabinet member for environment, said: "We have experienced difficulties in finding suitable sites across the county.

"With 53% of Dorset designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the locations that have been identified have met with opposition from local residents."

Steam fair site

The authority said last summer saw the number of unauthorised encampments "significantly reduced" in the county, due to a temporary transit site which operated during the Olympic and Paralympic events.

However, it described the move as a "one-off solution" to help safeguard the Games from traffic disruption and said "there are no plans for this to be repeated".

Image caption Dorset's PCC Martyn Underhill said the creation of a temporary transit site "enhances" police powers

Dorset's PCC, Martyn Underhill, said the creation of a temporary transit site "enhances the powers that the police can use to deal with unauthorised camping".

"There is another issue in that legally the law refers to each local authority opening its own temporary transit site, something that appears unworkable in Dorset," he added.

"I shall be lobbying Government to change the law to county boundaries, not local authority boundaries."

Ms Cox added: "We tend to see an increase in the number of unauthorised camps at this time of year, so have arranged for the Great Dorset Steam Fair transit site to open on 21 August, more than a week before the event, and travellers will be directed to that site."

The temporary traveller encampment at the steam fair has been running annually since 2004.

Under the Housing Act 2004 authorities have an obligation to identify sites suitable for the Gypsy and traveller community in a particular area.

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