Babergh: Lack of traveller pitches could have ‘critical’ impact

Group of Sudbury travellers has set up on the Station Road lorry/car park

Group of Sudbury travellers has set up on the Station Road lorry/car park - Credit: Archant

HOUSING officers are concerned that a lack of suitable gypsy and traveller pitches could lead to an increase in the number of unauthorised encampments in the Babergh area.

Travellers set up camp on the lorry park near Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury.

Travellers set up camp on the lorry park near Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury. - Credit: Archant

A report, due to be considered by the council’s strategy committee today, states that there is a “significant” chance the shortage of permanent pitches - and complete lack of transit pitches - for travellers in the area could have a “critical” impact.

According to the report from Babergh’s housing panel, which has been produced in support of a new Gypsy and Traveller Strategy and Action Plan for Norfolk and Suffolk, the subsequent increase in illegal encampments could also lead to deterioration in “community cohesion”.

Babergh is currently working with the Gypsy and Traveller Liaison service to remove a group of travellers who have set up camp in Sudbury’s station road lorry park. About 10 vehicles including four caravans moved on to the site earlier this week. One of the travellers told the EADT they were only there because there were no other short-term sites in the district for them to use. She added: “The council needs to find some official sites where we can park up for a few days. At the moment, we are in a position where we have no choice but to use public places like this - we have nowhere else to go.”

Last year, Babergh repeatedly experienced problems with illegal encampments in and around Sudbury. In May, travellers set up camp in the Babergh-owned Station Road car park and occupied more than 30 parking spaces. Then in August, an unauthorised encampment of around 12 vehicles parked on vacant land opposite a children’s playground in Aubrey Drive on the outskirts of town, before moving on to the former Second World War Chilton airfield.

There is only one permanent pitch for travellers within the Babergh area and there are no transit pitches. According to Babergh’s corporate manager for strategic housing, Julie Abbey-Taylor, the council has a duty to assess housing need for all parts of its community under the provisions of the 2004 Housing Act.

She said Babergh was working with neighbouring authorities and consultants on the latest Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment document, which would identify the type and number of pitches required.

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She added: “Babergh is working with other Suffolk local authorities to determine the need for transit provision across the county, and the most appropriate locations for them in terms of access, suitability, and planning considerations. No specific work has been done to identify suitable sites as yet.

“Babergh works closely with the Gypsy and Traveller Liaison service to prevent unauthorised encampments or to actively respond to them when they do occur. The provision of transit pitches across Suffolk would assist in being able to move encampments on to a more appropriate location when they do occur.”

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