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Dudley residents have told us very clearly that they want action taken to prevent unauthorised encampments by travellers. Such encampments cause frustration, fear and anger among residents in local communities through damage and nuisance.

It was costing the council – and the taxpayer – in excess of £150,000 per year in legal and clean-up costs to move travellers on from illegal encampments on parks and open spaces in the borough.

Having a transit site will save money and save many Dudley communities from the anger, frustration and annoyance of having valued green spaces damaged and contaminated with waste by unauthorised incursions, as has happened in recent years.

To be able to use the additional powers the transit site needs to be within the Dudley borough. The site gives the council and police new powers to address unauthorised incursions. This power only applies if the transit site is located within the borough.

What difference will it make?

The council currently has to secure possession of an occupied site via a legal process that can take between three and seven working days to complete.

The existence of a transit site allows the police to use the “power to direct” in certain circumstances* under section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994Under this section of the act, groups forming unlawful encampments can be ordered by the police to move all caravans and vehicles to a transit site if one is available.

Any group that refuses to leave when directed by the police under section 62, or that return to any site within the same local authority area within 12 months of being directed to move to a transit site, would be committing a criminal offence.

The effect of the powers provided by the provision of a transit site means that unauthorised encampments could be dealt with in as little as three hours if a group refused to move.

*In cases of serious criminality, damage, or Anti-Social Behaviour.

Has it worked elsewhere?

Yes. Other councils that have provided transit sites have found there has been a very significant reduction in the overall number of illegal encampments experienced.

For example, Telford and Wrekin Council experienced 150 unauthorised encampments during 2015. During 2017, following provision of a transit site, this number dropped to 18. Due to the fact that the power under section 62a is available, 17 of the 18 moved within half a day out of the borough. The remaining incursion moved to the transit site.

Sandwell has recently established a transit site in Smethwick after experiencing 85 incursions during 2016/17. Since providing the site earlier this year there has been nine further unauthorised incursions, all but one of which moved on within two hours. The remaining encampment of two caravans moved to the transit site as instructed, but left rather than pay the required deposit and advanced rental.

It is likely, based on evidence from elsewhere, that overall the site will be used very infrequently indeed.

Will travellers be charged to stay on the temporary transit site?

Yes. Groups of travellers moving to the temporary transit site will be charged rent to stay on the site, and only groups camping illegally on council-owned sites within the borough will be moved to the transit site.

Based upon similar arrangements elsewhere, notably in Sandwell, the charge would be in the region of £88 per caravan per week as well as a security deposit on the site, payable in advance.

Such a group would also have to adhere to an agreement signed by them on behaviour and littering prior to occupation.

How long can they stay for?

Caravans can stay for up to 28 days, 3 times in any 12 month period. This could be extended in exceptional circumstances.

How was the site chosen?

Officers were directed to identify sites that were large enough for around 40 caravans and towing vehicles.

Ten sites were identified and a range of criteria established against which to ‘score’ sites. They include:

  • whether the site was currently available for use
  • whether there were potential alternative uses being considered
  • the suitability of the location
  • access and planning and other constraints

Having carefully considered all of the sites available, the site that ranked highest was the site at Budden Road, Coseley.

What was the decision making process for this?

Use of the site was approved by Dudley Council’s cabinet and the site has planning consent for the use.

What is the current process for moving on illegal encampment?

Under current powers available to the council, the process of securing a court order to move the travellers on can take between five and seven working days.

The presence of a transit site means that the additional powers can be used within hours.

Will the transit site affect my house value or insurance premiums?

No. There is no evidence at all which indicates that the presence of an organised transit site affects either house values or insurance premiums.

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