More travellers sites on the cards

OFFICIAL small scale sites for travellers could be set up in the Suffolk Coastal area.

OFFICIAL small scale sites for travellers could be set up in the Suffolk Coastal area.

There have been travellers occupying mainly forestry land for nearly 20 years in the Woodbridge area and now they could be given their own camps.

However, Suffolk Coastal District Council stressed that the provision of sites was not the most urgent requirement of its homelessness strategy and officers have not met with travellers to discuss their needs.

Under the Housing Act 2004 the council has to include gypsies and travellers when assessing housing provision.

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The council says there has never been a significant traditional gypsy population, either migratory or fixed. But New Age Travellers have become established since the late 1980s.

They often occupy sites at Hollesley and near the Woodbridge airfield. They are usually hidden away among trees but recently there have been illegal camps set up on Suffolk Coastal land at Sutton Heath, adjacent to popular footpaths, which angered the public.

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Suffolk Coastal's cabinet meets on June 17 and will discuss the issue.

Chris Slemmings, cabinet member for housing, said the Government insisted that the homelessness strategy had to address the needs of gypsies and travellers and the council planned to meet three different groups of travellers in the area.

Cllr Slemmings said: ''However, those talks have not yet occurred, nor have we yet looked at possible locations for official camps as it is not a top priority of the homelessness strategy.''

He added the council's main efforts were focused upon the prevention of homelessness.

The population is forecast to rise in Suffolk Coastal by 17.5% in 20 years and the district currently has an above average number of people aged over 45.

More than 75% of the housing stock is owner occupied. The highest percentage of rented homes is in the Felixstowe area.

The rate of unemployment has dropped in 10 years from 5.5% to 1.3% but there has been a trend of people aged 16 to 24 moving away from the area for higher education and to find better paid jobs.

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