Dorset council admits 'mistakes' in travellers site advice

Dorset County Council has admitted mistakes in its handling of an illegal travellers camp earlier this month.

A group of travellers with 11 vehicles moved onto public land in West Parley on 2 July and stayed for nine days.

Residents said they were subjected to abuse and intimidation, but the county council's help was delayed.

Deputy council leader Hilary Cox said a checklist would be drawn up for all parish and town councils to advice how to deal with illegal encampments.

John Cullen, chair of West Parley Parish Council, asked for a "simple advice plan" on how to stop an incursion and what to do if one occurred. He welcomed the county council's response.

'Human waste'

He said residents had been unable to use the popular recreation ground and there were "a number of anti-social incidents".

"A couple of times when we were on site, there were absolutely no problems whatsoever," he said.

"But that was in the daytime. I myself was personally threatened by a group in a van."

He said it took three hours and cost about £500 to clean up the site.

"I've never seen so much human waste around a site, around trees, in paths were people would normally walk."

Ms Cox, portfolio holder for environment services, said: "It is always difficult to get the best available advice, just when you need it, at the drop of a hat.

"Unfortunately our gypsy and traveller liaison officer was on holiday at the time of the incursion and the parish council did not get, perhaps, the assistance they needed, when they needed it."

The land where the travellers camped is owned by the parish council, and it was its responsibility to get a removal order, Ms Cox pointed out.

"Parish councils though, don't always have that level of knowledge, and we as the lead authority for gypsies and travellers need to be able to offer them more help."

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