Fire-hit gypsy site reopening plans approved

The village sign at Bawburgh depictung St Walstan. Picture: Dr Andrew Tullett

The village sign at Bawburgh depictung St Walstan. Picture: Dr Andrew Tullett - Credit: Archant

The £125,000 reopening of a South Norfolk gypsy site, hit by fires, thefts and assaults on officers has moved a step closer.

The Bawburgh temporary stopping place (TSP), just off the A47, opened in 2014 with six pitches as an area for Gypsies and Travellers to stay for short periods.   

Issues at the site ended in its closure in July 2020, when an out-of-control fire was allegedly started by residents burning waste. 

The clean-up of the site resulted in 24 tonnes of material being removed at a cost of £4,910. 

South Norfolk Cabinet members discussed the plans for reopening the site on Tuesday, with council leader John Fuller saying the site had not worked and needed investment. 

The travellers site at Bawburgh which has been closed. Photo: Archant

The travellers site at Bawburgh which has been closed. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

Included in the reopening plans is improved security arrangements, including CCTV, fencing and barriers, as well as improved toilet and bathing facilities. 

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Occupants will be allowed a maximum stay of six weeks, with an extension to three months with approval by the council. 

The weekly rate is also due to increase from £40 to £50 per week, per pitch. 

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Council officers said rent collection had been “problematic” in the past, with periods where occupants failed to pay rent at all. 

Hethersett district councillor, David Bills, and Bawburgh Parish Council chairman, David Goodman, raised concerns about the plans. 

“If a family is going to be moved and refused access to the site their first place would be the village hall car park,” Mr Bills said. 

“They have already made a heck of a mess there and Bawburgh has to pick up the tab for cleaning it up.” 

Bawburgh Village Hall. Travellers have pitched up in the car park. Photo: Archant

Bawburgh Village Hall where travellers have pitched up in the past - Credit: Archant

Mr Goodman agreed, saying enforcement on the site is difficult because of how isolated it is and thought the additional security would not last. 

Alison Thomas, the cabinet member for better lives, said the report shows the council needs to reopen the site “but we need to do so with more teeth”. 

Ms Thomas promised a close relationship with the parish council so it could put measures in place to protect the village hall car park when an occupant is ejected from the site.

The cabinet agreed to delegate the redesign and management of the TSP to the Assistant Director of Individuals and Families.

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