To receive a briefing report from the Director of Place following a request at Exeter Strategic Board for information on traveller related issues.
Councillor Mrs Thompson attended the meeting under Standing Order 44.
The Director (DB) introduced a briefing note which he had been asked to prepare following a request for consideration of this topic by Councillor Mrs Thompson at a meeting of the Exeter Strategic Board. Information had been collated, and included a copy of the current protocol and details of a formal response to a Government consultation on powers for dealing with unauthorised development and encampments. The City Surveyor and Senior Estates Surveyor were also in attendance having both dealt with traveller issues for a number of years.
Councillor Mrs Thompson referred to a public meeting held at the Isca Centre organised by the Friends of Exhibition Fields to discuss a number of issues around a traveller incursion onto Eastern Fields, which had resulted in fly tipping and anti-social behaviour, and consideration of how the fields could be better protected in the future. She confirmed that a group of travellers had also pitched on the Station Road playing fields in Pinhoe, and there had been other instances around the city. The Councillor also referred to a forthcoming meeting on 17 September to discuss the recent incursions in Pinhoe with residents, the Police and City Council officers. She said that local residents wanted to have some plan of action in place as well as the due process by the local authorities of Exeter City Council and Devon County Council. She congratulated the local authority who acted very respectfully and swiftly to manage each of the recent situations, which often took place over the weekend when the Council offices were closed. She was aware that residents had concerns over the level of damage and antisocial behaviour and of the response from the Police.
A Member welcomed the detailed summary of incidents and enquired about the outcome of the Government consultation. The Senior Estates Surveyor stated that the consultation had closed in July and the Government were currently considering responses. A Member also reiterated Councillor Mrs Thompson’s comments and his contact with residents who had been disappointed by the more recent Station Road playing fields incursion. He was aware that the Council was responsible for a large number of sites with a limit on the level of defences, but he suggested that it was key to look at the number of access points to City Council land. He reminded Members of the Council’s protocol, and appreciated that whilst this issue might not touch on all Exeter residents, it was very personal to the residents and his fellow ward Councillors who had to experience the incursions close to hand.
Councillor Wood proposed that a Spotlight Review on this subject would be useful as soon as was practically possible. This was seconded by Councillor Pattison.
He suggested that it would be useful to look at the current protocol, any additional measures that could be introduced to prevent or restrict travellers moving onto a site. It would also be useful to have an overview of the actions taken and protocols used once the travellers had moved onto the site, together with any additional measures that could be introduced to prevent or restrict incursions by travellers.
Members supported the formation of a Spotlight Review to discuss Traveller related issues.