Agenda item

Non-Key Decision

Minutes:

The Leader introduced the report and the recommendations made by Scrutiny Panel A with regard to its review of the draft Ashfield District Council Unauthorised Encampments Protocol.  The Panel had recommended, following the review, that the Council should take a more conciliatory stance towards dealing with unauthorised encampments with an emphasis on negotiation rather than enforcement action.

 

Having considered the report in detail, the Leader informed the Cabinet that he did not fully concur with this methodology and was of the belief that a dual approach to tackling the issue (both negotiation and enforcement running alongside each other) would be far more effective.  Cabinet concurred with this course of action and felt that recommendations 1 to 4 should just be noted at this stage.

 

The Leader continued by giving a brief overview of the challenges and difficulties that were faced by the Council in 2018 when they were forced to deal with two unauthorised encampments on a Council owned park and football pitch.  The costs of the clean-up were significant and tensions were running very high within the local communities and many residents felt fearful.

 

It was agreed at that time that the Council needed to take a tough stance to address the issues and this involved swift enforcement action to ensure the matters was resolved without delay.  The Leader also commented that he felt the draft Unauthorised Encampments Protocol should be allowed to acclimatise for at least a year before it came forward for further review.

 

The Scrutiny Research and Support Officer gave a synopsis of the Panel’s investigations and the subsequent Members’ view that swift enforcement action without any prior negotiation consistently compounded the problems associated with unauthorised encampments and made matters ultimately worse.  The Rural Community Action Nottinghamshire representative who attend a meeting of the Panel also concurred with this view and felt that negotiation prior to any enforcement action was preferable.

 

However, the Leader and all present at the meeting acknowledged that the review had generated some interesting and constructive debate and it had spotlighted an important issue for the Council.  Mature cross-party debate had been welcomed and the Panel A Members and Scrutiny Officers were thanked once again for their contribution.

 

RESOLVED that

a)    recommendations 1 to 4 (outlined below), as submitted by Scrutiny Panel A, be received and noted at this present time:

 

·         the Protocol be amended to include two potential processes for dealing with Unauthorised Encampments; the primary approach focussing on negotiation, and the secondary approach focussing on enforcement action;

 

·         Officers be given the appropriate delegation to use their professional judgement and expertise, along with set criteria, to assess which process to utilise on a case by case basis;

 

·         the possibility of utilising the services of external delivery partners such as Rural Community Action Nottinghamshire via Service Level Agreements in supporting the actions of the Council to negotiate with the occupiers of unauthorised encampments be considered;

 

·         Officers continue to enhance their work with North Nottinghamshire Travellers Group to ensure effective and constructive collaboration between the member Councils in identifying further sites within the County;

 

b)    it be agreed that the Unauthorised Encampment Protocol be reviewed in order to assess its effectiveness after one full year of operation;

 

c)    officers be thanked for their work in drafting the revised Unauthorised Encampment Protocol.

 

Reason:

Consideration of the draft Unauthorised Encampment Protocol was added to the Scrutiny Workplan in October 2018.

Supporting documents: