Travellers in Reading could soon get a temporary home, with a councillor revealing plans for a ‘transit site’.

Transit sites are short-term stopping place for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community and differ from permanent sites which residential pitches longer term occupation.

Plans for a traveller site at Richfield Avenue fell through in 2018 when the site was chosen for new secondary school River Academy, which is set to open later this year.

READ MORE: Richfield Avenue school plan takes step forward

Reading Borough Council (RBC) is now looking for a new site and will reveal its plans “fairly soon”, according to Councillor Tony Page, the authority’s current lead member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport.

Speaking at a 2021 local elections hustings on the environment, he said: “We are looking at – and there will be a report coming out fairly soon – a transit site in part of the borough.”

Cllr Page said this would “hopefully allow the police to use enhanced powers which they currently can’t use because of the absence of a transit site”.

But he said the council would not be able to do “what is required” to meet the needs of the community without the co-operation of Wokingham and West Berkshire, who have much more open space to provide transit and permanent sites.

The Labour councillor and deputy leader of RBC, who is standing for re-election this May, added: “We would dearly love to partner with either Wokingham or West Berkshire, or indeed both, in providing shared facilities near the borough to address the need.”

Conservative Councillor Jane Stanford-Beale, who is standing for re-election on May 6, had brought up the subject at the hustings while answering a question on what she would do to make the most of open spaces in the town.

After talking up opportunities for green spaces in Reading, including looking after and not building on them and planting more trees, she said: “On the downside with green spaces, we have had a problem with travellers in Reading invading green spaces so we need to make sure they are suitably protected.

“But also, the council needs to step up and get an appropriate site for the travellers so they can be moved on if they are not in a designated space because they are causing a nuisance.

“We haven’t been able to identify a site to date. That should be a priority because they are also residents and they have got rights.”

These are the current council-run traveller sites in Wokingham and West Berkshire:

  • Wokingham: Carters Hill Park, Binfield and Twyford Orchards, Twyford
  • West Berkshire: Four Houses Corner

Reading Chronicle:

Other council-run traveller sites in Berkshire include Easthampstead in Bracknell; Mill Place and Pool Lane in Windsor & Maidenhead; and Foxborough Close and Poyle in Slough.

Cllr Page agreed with Cllr Stanford-Beale, stating: “Many of our open spaces have been trashed by travellers who break in with a level of criminality that can’t be sanctioned by anybody.”

And he added: “In terms of open space as a whole, we will be looking to maintain what we’ve got but also expand it.”

He said the Reading Prison site, if the council acquires it, will include open space and connect to the Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens as part of the Abbey Quarter.

Reading Chronicle: PICTURED: Reading PrisonPICTURED: Reading Prison

Also attending the Greater Reading Environmental Network hustings on April 27, Green Councillor Rob White, who is not standing this time around but was representing his party, called for green spaces to be “defended and improved”.

He said he had campaigned in around 2012 or 2013 for grass verges to be re-wilded and he was “pleased to see the council finally come round to managing grass verges” in 2020.

Cllr White also called for the council to plant 10 trees for every one that is cut down, for example if it is diseased and unsafe.

And finally Reading’s Lib Dem group leader Councillor Ricky Duveen also spoke on behalf of his candidates, repeating his regular calls for more tree planting and

The Lib Dems submitted an amendment earlier this year at the council’s budget-setting meeting calling for money to £250,000 to be spent on tree planting over the next three years, which was rejected.

READ MORE: ‘Pointless’, ‘Naive’ – plans to plant more trees and insulate more homes rejected by council

He also slammed the lack of public toilets in parks in Reading and called for more wild areas in parks and more roadside flower verges.