By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Newark and Sherwood District Council is planning to spend more than £150,000 on boulders and bollards to keep travellers off land in parts of the area.
The deputy leader of the council says the decision has been reached following concerns from residents living next to unauthorised encampments.
Representatives of the traveller community have previously said the number of designated sites in the area is not enough to meet demand.
The authority stressed the latest move is not against the traveller community and those wishing to set up camp in Newark will be moved to more suitable sites.
This summer, the council says travellers have occupied several sites across the district, including Cleveland Square/Thorpe Oaks and the Newbury Road Estate.
This has caused the council financial pressure with the estimated legal cost of eviction and clean up at Cleveland Square sitting at around £7,000.
The council says some travellers moved to Newark in October 2020 and stayed until April 2021, occupying at various times Cedar Avenue, land behind TK Maxx, Yorke Drive and then land at the Happy Farmer.
They then left Newark only to return in June.
The council stated: “Following these incidents, which were at significant cost to the public purse to resolve, the council was criticised for not taking action to secure sites against repeat occupation.”
Now, the local authority will try to address the at its next Policy and Finance Committee on Thursday, September 23.
Twenty-one ‘at risk’ sites have been identified across the area, 15 of which are owned or managed by Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Bollards, boulders, tree planting, barriers, and access gates are among some of the measures that will be put in place to stop travellers accessing the land.
The projected costs for works so far are £197,305 for all sites – with £151,020 being paid out by the district council and £44,325 by Newark Town Council.
The report states: “The purpose of the proposed works is not to prevent groups from entering the district rather to ensure the impacts on and conflicts with residents are kept to a minimum and to ensure gypsy and traveller groups are encouraged to use more suitable areas.”
The council believes the move will reduce crime and antisocial behaviour, improve the health and wellbeing of residents and avoid “significant eviction costs”.
Cllr Keith Girling (Cons), deputy leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “This is not against travellers. Some have caused a mess (at these sites) – faeces, rubbish, and damage and it is not acceptable.
“It is not pleasant for our staff and for people who live round there. The problem is, it is like everything, you have a group of people and all you need is some bad ones, and it gives the whole group a bad reputation. We do have our fair share of the bad ones.
“Residents are a bit fed up and it is more to do with that than anything else. We have pitches but they do not tend to want to go down there.
“This will cost us money initially but then it will pay itself back over time.”
Cllr Girling said it will save time by avoiding the eviction route, which can be a lengthy and costly process. He said the council is also committed in building pitches for travellers.
Currently, the council is reviewing 22 sites for the traveller and gypsy community.
As part of the review there is a need for 118 plots between now and 2034.
He added: “We are doing everything – but the difficulty is they don’t always do what you want them to do. If they don’t want to use a site, you can’t force people. They have the right to roam and are a protected group. It is not easy to solve.”
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in August, Richard Bennett, chief executive of Gypsy Life, which represents the traveller community, said: “Newark and Sherwood has one of the country’s largest traveller populations.
“It’s quite ironic that the council announce these 20-odd plots when we’ve got around 25,000 members of the community in the district.
“People who look at this quite negatively will think these 20-odd plots are a maximum need when actually, it’s a minimum need.
“Not all gypsies and travellers live in caravans, a large number of us live in housing but not by choice.”
Sites where proposed action will be taken to prevent travelers setting up camp include:
Sconce and Devon Park in Newark – Bollards, boulders, height barrier plus entry gate.
Newbury Road Estate in Newark – bund, which is an earth mound, and tree planting
Thorpe Oaks Play Area and Open Space in Coddington – bund and tree planting
Clay Lane Open Space in Newark – bund to run along metal gates and ditch
Lincoln Road Recreation Ground in Newark – ‘target hardening’ but no description on how this will look
Mead Way Open Space in Newark – bund or boulders
Sherwood Health in Ollerton – two bollards
Vicar Water Country Park in Clipstone – height barrier and possible bollards
Dodsley Way Open Space in Clipstone – drop bollards and tree planting
Lake View Open Space – meadow creation around boundary and tree planting
Thorpe Close Play Area in Coddington – bund with tree planting
Cleveland Green in Newark – update bollards
Fleming Drive Play Area in Newark – bund or bollards
Hawtonville Housing Office in Newark – boulders needed to block entrance
Boughton Open Space in Boughton – bollards
Barnby Road Play Area in Newark – bund and tree planting
Autumn Croft Open Space in Newark – bund and tree planting
Riverside Park Play Area in Newark – more fencing and bollards
Syerston Way in Newark – bund and tree planting
Collis Close in Newark – boulders
Chestnut Avenue in Newark – tree planting and bund