SOMERSET Council is to spend up to £125,000 on new security measures designed to keep travellers away from one of Taunton’s park and ride sites.

The Silk Mills park and ride, located off the A3065 Silk Mills Road in the west of the town, has been the setting for numerous unauthorised traveller encampments in recent years – including two within the last three months.

Somerset County Council made changes to its sister site, the Taunton Gateway park and ride, in 2019 to deter travellers, including the installation of “physical features to block access”.

Somerset Council (which replaced the county council in April 2023) has now confirmed similar measures will be put in place at the Silk Mills site – though it has not stated how soon these will be implemented.

Somerset County Gazette: A caravan at the park and ride site in 2023.A caravan at the park and ride site in 2023. (Image: Contributed)

The council allocated £125,000 towards “security measures at the Silk Mills Park and Ride site” within its capital programme, which was approved by councillors when they met to set the council’s annual budget in February.

A council spokesman said: “The work is included in our capital spend this year to ensure the potential disruption and clear-up costs which sometimes occur can in the long-term be prevented.

“We do not have a time-scale for installation as yet.

“The proposal is for measures similar to those on the Gateway park and ride site which include low-height barriers that caravans and camper-vans cannot pass under, along with a combination of bollards and boulders to prevent caravans being driven over kerbs into the main parking area and the central grassed area of the bus turning circle.

“We will also be providing a new secure entrance and exit for our minibuses based on the site and new main gates.

“Depending on the length of stay, it can cost between £350 and £500 to clear up following an unauthorised encampment. This work is carried out by council staff.”

To prevent unauthorised encampments in the long term, the council is working on identifying large permanent sites for travellers, as well as approving applications for smaller sites across the county.

The £23.6m Glastonbury town deal includes the provision of a travellers’ site on Porchestall Drove as part of a slew of measures designed to meet the needs of the ‘non-bricks and mortar’ community in and around the town, as well as allowing other regeneration projects in the Beckery area of the town to go ahead.

Numerous smaller sites across the county have been granted planning permission over the last two years, including four pitches in Cossington (approved in December 2023) and the same number near the Rumwell Farm Shop near Taunton (approved in May 2024).

A spokesman said: “Work is under way to identify permanent and transit provision needed across Somerset as part of the gypsy and traveller accommodation assessment.

“This will be completed by August and should provide an understanding of where there is unmet need in the county.

“In the meantime, planning applications from the gypsy and traveller community will continue to be assessed in line with local and national planning policy, and our welfare and housing teams continue to engage with the gypsy and traveller communities in Somerset.”