Temporary Site Found for Encampment over Christmas

A GROUP of travellers who had based themselves at Prospect Park have agreed to move to an alternative site in Reading to minimise the impact on residents over the festive season.

The Council has allowed the encampment to move onto land at the junction of Cow Lane and Richfield Avenue, which had previously been considered for a traveller transit site, for a temporary period and with a number of conditions attached. The arrangement, backed up with a legal contract, will allow local residents to use Prospect Park while preventing the encampment dispersing and camping in other parts of the borough over the Christmas period. Fewer resources and court closures over the holiday season would have seriously delayed any chance of moving on unauthorised encampments during this time. The Reading-based group of travellers who were at Prospect Park today agreed to a contract which will allow them to stay at the site off Richfield Avenue until January 2nd, subject to a number of conditions. The Council has the power to authorise this temporary use on its land without the requirement to apply for planning permission. The conditions require the encampment not to cause any disturbance or nuisance to anyone in the surrounding area, not to interfere with anyone’s access rights and to keep the site clean and tidy.

Cllr Sophia James, Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Communities, said:

“This arrangement is a practical and common-sense approach which minimises the risk of further unauthorised incursions happening in other parts of the town over the Christmas period. “The alternative would have seen the encampment potentially remaining on Prospect Park over the Christmas period or the possibility of the camp dispersing and moving to other parts of the borough, without the Council having any realistic chance of taking prompt action. “The Council has listened to residents’ concerns about the park and has been reviewing with police the best way to deal with the situation. Common Law powers to move on encampments can only be used by the Council in exceptional circumstances and the usual legal process would be delayed due to court closures over Christmas. “The land off Richfield Avenue is not a residential area and there should be minimal impact on the community. However, there is a robust agreement in place which must be adhered to for the stay to be guaranteed.” The site off Richfield Avenue had been the subject of a public consultation last year as a potential dedicated site for gypsies and travellers in Reading. However, the proposal was dropped after the site was chosen as a location for a new secondary school. Efforts to find a suitable site for the travelling community continue.