Coronavirus and unauthorised encampments
Update – The New Dover Road park and ride site is no longer being used as a temporary site for travellers.
Canterbury City Council is well-known among the traveller community for taking a robust approach to unauthorised encampments throughout the district.
Indeed, it is one of the few councils in the country to have been granted an injunction by the courts that enables it to quickly move traveller families off of council land.
But the arrival of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has forced both the police and the council to temporarily change their approach in order to follow national guidelines.
The police will no longer evict travelling families from unauthorised encampments and have asked councils to allow those families to stay on suitable sites all the while the crisis continues.
With some vulnerable people among their number, this will allow them to access healthcare and reduce the potential spread of the virus. There is no evidence to suggest travelling families are directly responsible for the spread of coronavirus and are just as likely to catch it as the rest of us.
The council will provide facilities like water, toilets and waste removal.
In return, the families are asked to agree to a strict set of rules governing their behaviour that apply to anyone using council land. If they do not, they will be evicted.
- Not to cause any damage to the site
- Not to drive vehicles along any footpath
- Not to burn, dump or tip rubbish or trade waste on any part of the site
- Not to go to the toilet in the open
- Not to abuse, intimidate or harass anyone near the site
- Not to carry out or permit any form of anti-social behaviour
- Government rules on the coronavirus must be followed at all times
Canterbury City Council will be using the motorhome area of the New Dover Road park and ride site.
It already has standpipes and the facility to empty chemical toilets. It will also provide temporary toilet facilities and take waste away on a regular basis.
The enforcement team will visit the site regularly to carry out welfare, behaviour and safety checks. It will also be monitored by CCTV.
Canterbury City Council Chief Executive Colin Carmichael said: “This temporary change to our approach has been sparked by a change to the national guidelines of dealing with traveller encampments.
“If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that those who are not normally vulnerable and in need of help quickly become so because of the disruptive power of the virus. We need to put the normal rules of engagement to one side in order to ensure everyone gets the help they deserve.
“Coronavirus has shown us time and again it does not discriminate and to beat it nor should we.”
Travellers arriving on Canterbury City Council land in the district will be directed to this site if their presence is causing a problem and the council will use its normal processes to evict them if they refuse to head to New Dover Road.
If they are not causing any problems, the council will keep in touch with them but not move families on.
Published: 16 April 2020