Loop­holes in trav­eller camp law must be closed

Solihull News - - CAROLINE SPELMAN MP -

RES­I­DENTS have ex­pe­ri­enced a sharp in­crease in the num­ber of unau­tho­rised trav­eller en­camp­ments in the bor­ough of Soli­hull this sum­mer.

The same is true in other parts of the coun­try, which led to MPs se­cur­ing a gen­eral de­bate on this in Par­lia­ment on Mon­day in which I took part.

In the West Mid­lands the num­ber of unau­tho­rised en­camp­ments has dou­bled since 2011 and Soli­hull has ex­pe­ri­enced twice as many camps this year as we did in 2015.

This is de­spite a num­ber of changes to the law in 2013 which en­abled the po­lice to serve an evic­tion no­tice un­der Sec­tion 61 of the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act when there is clear ev­i­dence of anti- so­cial be­hav­iour, van­dal­ism and crim­i­nal­ity.

How­ever, it is clear that there are loop­holes in this leg­is­la­tion which has made it in­ef­fec­tive against the threat of suc­ces­sive unau­tho­rised or il­le­gal in­cur­sions.

Whilst the of­fend­ers are banned from re­turn­ing within three months, it does not pre­vent a dif­fer­ent group settling on the same site as was the case in Bent­ley Heath park this sum­mer.

To that end, I have called for the law to be changed in or­der for the pro­tec­tion to ap­ply to the land thus giv­ing the set­tled com­mu­nity respite from th­ese unau­tho­rised camps.

This can be achieved with in­junc­tions but only where there is space at au­tho­rised en­camp­ments where trav­ellers can be moved to. Soli­hull Coun­cil have sought to pro­vide spare pitches at its au­tho­rised en­camp­ments but trav­ellers do not al­ways ac­cept to be moved to th­ese.

One con­cern which emerged from that de­bate is that the chil­dren of trav­ellers have much worse health and ed­u­ca­tional out­comes than those of the set­tled com­mu­nity from the lack of con­ti­nu­ity in ac­cess to pub­lic ser­vices.

The Govern­ment has agreed to con­sult on new and ex­ist­ing mea­sures to close loop­holes in the law which lead to unau­tho­rised en­camp­ments and I will work closely with lo­cal res­i­dents and Soli­hull Coun­cil in call­ing for changes to be made which save the tax payer fund­ing con­stant re­sources to the courts and po­lice for evic­tion costs.

It is clear there is a bal­ance to be struck between pro­tec­tions for the set­tled com­mu­nity and for the trav­eller com­mu­nity and it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that most of the lat­ter are law abid­ing.

Soli­hull had twice as many unau­tho­rised trav­eller camps this year as it did in 2015

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