No powers to move Bournemouth travellers, police say

Caravans at Muscliffe recreation ground
Image caption The council has begun legal proceedings to regain possession of the land

Police say they have no power to remove an illegal encampment in Bournemouth, despite calls for them to act.

A group of about 20 caravans moved on to the recreation ground at Muscliffe last week and the council is taking legal steps to remove them.

MP Tobias Ellwood, councillors and residents called on police to "act immediately".

Dorset Police said it would only move travellers on in "exceptional circumstances".

Bournemouth Borough Council said it had no traveller sites and there were no pitches available for travellers in the borough.

Mr Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, said police had powers to go in "firm and fast" and "if there's six or more pitches, then they have the right, straight away, to tell these individuals to move on".

Supt Mike Rogers said: "We will only move travellers on in absolute exceptional circumstances, in a last case scenario.

"The basic situation would be one where the community... are denied, in entirety, the facilities of a particular area or a particular piece of land.

"In this situation, this has not occurred."

'No suitable sites'

On Friday, Bournemouth Borough Council said it was aware of the unauthorised encampment and the site was being visited and monitored daily.

On Monday it announced it had started legal proceedings to repossess the land.

Bournemouth and other councils across Dorset began a consultation in 2011 to identify potential sites to accommodate Gypsies and travellers.

The plan, required by government, will allocate permanent and transit sites for the next 15 years, is due to be adopted by the end of this year.

A 2013 report found, while there was a need for 88 pitches across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, the total supply was eight.

Bournemouth Borough Council leader John Beesley said: "The council's position remains the same as it has done for the past three years.

"We do not believe that there are any suitable sites for a permanent transit facility within the Bournemouth boundary."

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