COLCHESTER needs to double the number of traveller and gypsy pitches in the borough, according to a new report.

Planning experts from local authorities in Essex have assessed demand for the next 20 years.

Colchester currently has 24 pitches but will need 48 by 2033.

Essex needs almost 800 more, with the majority in the south of the county and close to London.

Decisions on where these may be are yet to be made but councils have a legal duty to provide them.

John Jowers, cabinet member responsible for planning at Essex County Council, said: “By planning carefully for the county’s gypsy and traveller community, it is hoped we will avoid some of the problems with illegal encampments that so frustrate residents.

“This planning document is an excellent example of authorities working together.”

Residents whop have suffered from unauthorised sites recently are unsure whether more legal sites will help.

Mark Ennew is the chairman of the Gas Recreation Football Club off Bromley Road.

Caravans are currently occupying pitches used by the club.

He said: “I don’t believe travellers want static sites. They want to move around.

“I don’t think if there was 450,000 places or sites it would stop them going onto fields.”

John Halls, a town councillor from Frinton and Walton, revealed travellers are currently moving around unauthorised sites in the area.

He said: “If they had more legal sites I would hope more of them would use them but they would have to be maintained and monitored.”

A pitch is an area large enough for a household and usually has one or two caravans on them.

The Government pays councils about £8,000 a pitch.

Discussions are also taking place about introducing a formal tolerance policy for unauthorised encampments allowing them to remain for 24 days if not causing a problem or intrusive on public space.

On private land it is a civil matter.

The facts and figures: 

 - The highest population of gypsies and travellers in Essex is in Basildon with 873. The lowest is Rochford.

Colchester has 79 with 132 in Braintree, 201 in Maldon and 62 in Tendring, according to the 2011 census.

- There are currently 818 pitches in Essex. This includes 244 on public sites, 390 on private and 97 unauthorised developments.

- There are 32 different pitches in Colchester. The highest is Basildon with 181. Braintree has 66 as does Maldon. Tendring has 14.

- There are currently 44 vacant pitches in Essex including three in Colchester, 21 in Braintree but none in Maldon or Tendring.

- There are more unauthorised pitches in Braintree than anywhere else in Essex with 21. There are five in Colchester and one in both Maldon and Tendring.

- Essex needs 830 more pitches. With 44 spaces it means 786 more are needed by 2033.

- Once all pitches are filled Colchester needs 24 more by 2033. 12 are needed by 2018.

- Braintree needs 40 more pitches once all available ones are full including 14 more by 2018.

- Maldon requires 41 more pitches including 17 by 2018.

- Tendring needs ten by 2033.

- Basildon needs 240 more, the highest, with half needed by 2018. Areas close to London and the south of the county will be supplying the majority of those needed.

- Colchester has a 12 pitch local authority site on Severalls Lane. Private sites with permission exist in Aldham, Tiptree and Layer Breton.

There is permission for the Turkey Cock Lane site in Stanway, a tolerated site in Tiptree and unauthorised sites in Tiptree and Chappel.