Dorset Gypsy sites: No new pitches until 2022

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Travellers at PiddlehintonImage source, LDRS
Image caption,
A total of 25 new pitches have been created in Dorset since 2012 and they are all in Piddlehinton

No new Gypsy and traveller pitches will be created in Dorset until at least 2022, the county's councils have said.

Only 25 new pitches have been created in the county since 2012, with more than 130 still needed, according to previous council calculations.

A list of potential sites was due to be published in 2018 but was delayed by the merger of nine councils into two.

National charity Friends Families and Travellers has described the continued delay as a "shocking disgrace".

Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, which suspended all cabinet meetings in response to the coronavirus pandemic last month, said a separate plan for Gypsy and traveller sites was no longer being progressed.

Instead, provision would be covered within two new local plans for those areas.

A consultation on Dorset Council's plan is due in the autumn with a draft plan expected to be published in autumn next year, submitted in spring 2022 and adopted the following year.

'Stark inequalities'

BCP council said it anticipated a public consultation on its draft local plan would take place later this year, with further consultation in 2021 and adoption in 2022.

Sarah Mann, director of Friends Families and Travellers, said: "Proposing to not make any progress until after 2022 is a shocking disgrace."

She said the restructuring of Dorset councils in April 2019 was not relevant to the "stark inequalities" experienced by Gypsy and traveller communities and said the situation demonstrated the authorities' "lack of commitment to meet their legal obligations".

"Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have been a vital part of Dorset history for hundreds of years," she said.

Image caption,
In 2012 the government said about 6,000 new pitches were needed across the country

The first stage of consultation on possible sites across the county was held in 2011.

The following year the government agreed there was a national need for about 6,000 new pitches.

But a BBC Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2016 found local authorities had created just 1,800 since that time.

It found there were 212 pitches in Dorset, with 25 created since 2012, all in Piddlehinton and only available during the spring and summer months.

The county's councils had also calculated 132 more were needed.

In 2015, about 80% of respondents to a Gypsy and traveller site consultation in Dorset raised objections, including highlighting concerns over flooding.

A recent FOI request to Dorset's councils found they dealt with about 40 unauthorised encampments every year and they previously said they had spent more than £700,000 on associated removal and clean-up costs since 2012.

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