Trav­eller camp laws are ‘ fail­ing’

Solihull News - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID IR­WIN david. ir­win@ reach­plc. com

LAWS avail­able to lo­cal coun­cils to deal with trav­eller en­camp­ments are “fail­ing”, Soli­hull res­i­dents have been told.

Coun­cil­lor Tony Di­ci­cco ( Con, Meri­den) said that he wanted to see a change in leg­is­la­tion, which would pre­vent groups from “criss- cross­ing” the bor­ough and mov­ing straight to another site nearby as soon as they had been evicted.

A pub­lic meet­ing at Soli­hull Col­lege’s Blos­som­field cam­pus heard con­cerns from lo­cal peo­ple about the re­sponse to unau­tho­rised camps, which the au­thor­i­ties con­cede in­creased in the bor­ough over the past two sum­mers.

Coun Di­ci­cco, who was pre­vi­ously cab­i­net mem­ber for stronger com­mu­ni­ties and part­ner­ships, prior to a reshuf­fle ear­lier this month, said that the coun­cil had taken var­i­ous steps to at­tempt to pre­vent in­cur­sions, but he be­lieved that the ‘ Section 77’ in­junc­tions – which lo­cal au­thor­i­ties use to re­move an il­le­gal en­camp­ment – needed to be beefed up.

He said: “If they turn up on the Fri­day af­ter­noon, by the time we have got round to them it’s Mon­day morn­ing. And then the wel­fare as­sess­ment, that’s a day, so that’s Tues­day. And then we have to go to the court, so it’s prob­a­bly go­ing to be the next Fri­day, or even the Mon­day af­ter, be­fore we can get them off the land.

“And the big frus­tra­tion for me was that we would bust a gut to get this in­junc­tion to get them off the piece of land, they’d drive half a mile down the road and break on to another piece of land.

“So to me the law is fail­ing. The in­junc­tion, when we get it, should not just be for that piece of land and those travel- lers, it should be the whole of the bor­ough. That pre­vents them com­ing back to our bor­ough and caus­ing the dis­rup­tion that they do.”

He urged the pub­lic to take part in a cur­rent con­sul­ta­tion that the Gov­ern­ment is hold­ing into pos­si­ble changes in the law, be­liev­ing that “peo­ple power” could gal­vanise a re­sponse.

Since the start of the year, most of the sites to have ex­pe­ri­enced prob­lems have been in the north of the bor­ough, with car­a­vans hav­ing pitched up on ar­eas in­clud­ing Heath Park, in Chelm­s­ley Wood, Babbs Mill at King­shurst, and land ad­ja­cent to Cas­tle Bromwich Hall Gar­dens.

The meet­ing heard a num­ber of com­plaints from res­i­dents about the way the prob­lem was be­ing han­dled.

“If I dumped all my rub­bish on my neigh­bours’ land, if I went and defe­cated on their land, if I threw a brick through their win­dow, I would be ar­rested and taken to court,” one woman said.

Insp Emma Thomp­son, from Soli­hull Po­lice, said that a com­bi­na­tion of com­mon law pow­ers and in­junc­tions were used to move trav­ellers on.

She con­firmed that there had been oc­ca­sions re­cently when of­fi­cers tipped off by res­i­dents had been able to pre­vent trav­ellers from get­ting on to a site, but the sit­u­a­tion was more dif­fi­cult once a num­ber of car­a­vans had gained ac­cess.

“Un­for­tu­nately once they’ve got on it’s very dif­fi­cult and ac­tu­ally what you find with large groups of trav­ellers in par­tic­u­lar, it can gen­er­ate quite a volatile sit­u­a­tion if you try and stop them.”

Chief Supt Bas Javid, Soli­hull Po­lice’s Com­man­der, ac­knowl­edged that there had been “a re­ally high level” of in­cur­sions in 2017, but so far this year in­ci­dents had not been at the same level.

Trav­ellers at Babbs Mill ear­lier this year

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