Physical barriers could be used to block seafront travellers

A series of measures could be put in place to stop further traveller encampments on Weston-super-Mare seafront.

Two groups of travellers have set up camp on the Beach Lawns in recent weeks, with the latest group of around eight caravans moving on to the site over the weekend.

North Somerset Council, which owns the site, has carried out welfare checks on the group and issued them with a notice to leave by noon today (Tuesday, May 11).

If the group does not leave, the authority, once again, faces applying to the magistrates court to secure an eviction notice to move them on.

North Somerset Council deputy leader Councillor Mike Bell said: “Council officers have completed welfare checks and they have been served with a notice to leave the land by 12 noon tomorrow (Tuesday 11th).

“If they do not leave then a court order for eviction will be secured.”

Authority leaders have also asked officers to look at a series of potential options to prevent further encampments at the Beach Lawns.

Measures such as removing the dropped kerbs around the site and introducing bollards at any remaining gateways are among ideas being considered.

Other suggestions including creating an earth mound around the boundary of the site, to stop vehicle access, are also being considered.

Weston councillor and executive member for placemaking and development Councillor Mark Canniford said the authority had to weigh up the costs of protecting the Beach Lawns, which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, against the disturbance and mess caused by the camps.

Mr Canniford said: “We have to ask the question as to whether we spend £5,000 to £10,000 each year on clearing up these encampments, which are a seasonal issue, against the cost of spending hundreds of thousands on preventative measures.

“We have asked officers to look at what preventative measures could be put in place to protect the Beach Lawns and expect a report back next week.

“There are some possible solutions we could use, but they will cost a lot of money.

“And this is a bill which ultimately the taxpayer will have to foot.

“It is a difficult one for us to balance and we’d be interested to hear what the general public thinks.”

Mr Canniford said if the Beach Lawns was made a no go place, the travellers were just likely to set up somewhere else.

“We cannot protect every piece of land which North Somerset owns,” he said.

“If we stop them moving on to the Beach Lawns they will very likely just set up camp somewhere else in the town such as in our parks.”

Mr Canniford added that that authority needed to look at providing a transit site for visiting travellers.

“We need to urgently find an transit site where travellers visiting the district can stop off,” he said.

“The issue of finding a site however is a tricky one because as an authority we do not have a lot of suitable land in our ownership.”

North Somerset is a popular location with travellers during the summer months when they arrive in the district looking for work.

The district does offer a number of permanent pitches for the travelling community including the Willowmead site and a newly developed site at the Old Junction Yard, both in Weston-super-Mare.

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