Archive for February, 2010

Van dwellers – setting the record straight

Some of the reports that have come out following my decision to raise this matter at a Council meeting recently have been simply ridiculous. We are not targetting anyone, being hostile to a minority or demonising people. We are simply seeking to address an issue that has been raised.

I approach the issue of van dwellers from the standpoint that the law says that living on the highway is illegal. I also have serious concerns about the health and safety needs of van dwellers and nearby residents, the needs of children living in vans and the fact that there have been reports from residents of insanitary behaviour from some van dwellers. The original Notice of Motion I tabled with the support of my Conservative colleagues called for a new bye-law to be introduced and, after discussions with other councillors, I announced a working group, comprising all Parties on the Council and hopefully some outside agencies, such as the police.

There has also been some misinformation flying around about our housing responsibilities as a Council. Van dwellers have just the same rights as any other person to apply to the council as homeless or indeed to seek housing advice from our excellent housing options team. They will be assessed in exactly the same manner and if, genuinely found to be in priority need, they will be offered accommodation. In addition, all vans are visited by council officers to assess the health and welfare needs of the occupants. But we are under no obligation to offer a site where they can park their vans.

Many people objected to my raising this issue but as politicians it is our responsibility to respond to concerns raised by residents. If I had swept this under the carpet we would not have the cross-Party working group and nor would we be starting work towards managing the issue of van dwellers. 

I want to thank everyone who has written to me supporting the stance I have taken. Our work continues.

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February 2010