Kevin Foster: Make illegal encampment sites more difficult to access
- Credit: Archant
Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay, writes for the Torbay Weekly:
It is good to see a planning application submitted for a major redevelopment of the Crossways Shopping Centre in Paignton.
The proposals are for a five-floor block of 13 sheltered flats and a seven-storey block of 76 extra-care flats, with commercial units at street level.
Extra care housing, or assisted living, provides residents with self-contained flats, but with staff available to provide personal care and support.
This is a similar concept to the Whitley Court development near Paignton Zoo.
I hope this application is quickly approved.
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This summer has seen places across our Bay targeted by those looking to set up illegal encampments, including Paignton Green, Corbyn Head and in The Willows.
Torbay Council will seek to evict encampments from its land, although this can take up to 14 days due to those involved abusing safeguards designed to protect the genuinely vulnerable.
A range of work is needed to deal with this issue, which must include making sites being regularly targeted more difficult to access, as is done by other councils.
I, therefore, do not share the views expressed by Torbay Council's leadership about not doing this, as even in authorities with an authorised site such encampments happen.
Sites such as Paignton Green cannot be left as an 'open goal' and few would believe it sensible not to secure their property purely because they could evict someone who moved in.
The Republic of Ireland implemented successful legal changes a few years ago to make it much easier and quicker for the police to deal with this issue and prevent repeated targeting of key sites.
We should follow their example and I know the Government is looking closely at their provisions.
Yet even when the law does change measures to protect key sites here in the bay will be part of preventing their repeated targeting.
When local scientist Dr Peter Scott-Morgan was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, a condition which will ultimately see him enter a 'locked in' state, he decided not to give in, but to fight back using research and, crucially, robotics, with himself as the 'guinea pig' for his ideas.
His goal? A system of integrated command systems which fuse man and robotics to enable him to maintain some independence, even when unable to move a muscle.
He is inspirational to meet and it was great to see his work receive national attention this week.
Following recent changes in public health guidance, I have restarted my regular advice surgeries, although they must be by appointment only.
My next surgeries are from 11am till 1pm on Saturday, August 29, at 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD and from 10am to midday on Saturday, September 5, at St Martin's Church, Barton Hill Road, Torquay TQ2 8JA.
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