Devon Travellers are opposing plans by Devon County Council who are proposing two new transient sites in Devon. One on Telegraph Hill, near Exeter, and one on the A381 near Totnes. In a new campaign driven by local travellers, concerns are being raised about the unsuitablility of plans, including traffic worries and the fact that that those without vehicles are totally ignored.
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26th January 2004
Travellers Oppose Proposal for new Transient Sites in Devon
Devon Travellers are opposing plans by Devon County Council who are proposing two new transient sites in Devon. One on Telegraph Hill, near Exeter, and one on the A381 near Totnes. In a new campaign driven by local travellers, concerns are being raised about the unsuitablility of plans. These are outlined below along with some alternative proposals.
The proposed Totnes site is very small, dangerous and noisy. It would be squeezed between a verge and gravel store, a few meters from a very busy main road. When previously occupied by travellers, a resident was killed walking to it from town. There are worries about exhaust fume levels, there is no pedestrian access, or safe place for a bus to stop.
The Exeter site is currently an established permanent residence where some have settled for years, and would prefer it to continue as a permanent site.
There has been virtually no consultation with travellers whom it will affect.
The sites will be managed by a private company who have made heavy handed statements in the press about how they will keep the sites in order, and will charge an unspecified fee and tax for the privilage of getting a place on such a site.
Many travellers are worried about the negative impact these sites will have on the existing traveller community in Devon (ie greater police powers to evict existing sites).
Some have stated they would not choose to pay to live on such a site with services that they already provide for themselves, ie. electricity, washing facilities, toilets.
The temporary nature of such sites make them utterly unsuitable for most Devon based travellers. Residents could only stop for a maximum of 3 months after which could be forcibly evicted, and possibly moved out of the county. These sites do nothing for local people permanently living in vehicles and caravans who can not afford the extortionate property prices in the area but will not be forced to leave their communities and locality.
The existing site at Telegraph Hill will be reduced from 50 family units to just 15. There are a severe lack of plots allocated in the plans, ie.23 for the whole of Devon, whilst there are hundreds of travellers based in Devon.
Health and education concerns, that seem to be the justification for the implementation of such sites, are starting to be tackled by the travelling communities themselves. Telegraph Hill being a receiver of grants for various educational projects. Other travellers in the area have just recieved a grant to set up a travellers first aid kit with herbal remedies, and health library. More help to aid these sorts of projects would offer a real solution to these issues, not the establishment of corporate temporary sites that offer no support,or sense of security, or future.
Counciller Knight from DCC has admitted enforcement action on its own is a waste of time and money, and that travellers have been a part of Devon's culture for centuries. We say it is time to thrash out the issues and come up with a long term solution that truly benifits both Devon's travelling communities, and the wider community.
We are asking the Council to:
Withdraw the bid and redraw the plans after consulting with Travellers for input of ideas, views, and practicalities on the reallities of life in a Caravan, Vehicle, or Bender on a site, and how these communities could really benefit from such a proposal.
Implement and ratify a constitution of travellers rights for the county.
Change the current policy on unoffical sites to regarding each site by its merits, and cease to block off existing traditional stopping places. The current policy just adds to the problem the council state they are trying to solve.
Re open traditional stopping places
Support a conflict resolution process, to relieve tensions between travellers and local communities.
Recognise that unauthorised sites are not illegal as stated in many of the documents published on this issue.
Recognise that Vehicle and Caravan dwelling is a much needed solution to the local housing crisis, not the "problem". Under the Agenda 21 international agreement signed by the British Government, and to be ratified by local councils, such sustainable initiatives should be welcomed and encouraged, by favouring planning approval for private sites as a low impact solution to housing.