WESTMINSTER DIARIES: Stronger laws for unauthorised encampments - The Solihull Observer

WESTMINSTER DIARIES: Stronger laws for unauthorised encampments

Solihull Editorial 9th Jun, 2018   0

WESTMINSTER DIARY

Readers will be familiar with the ongoing debate about how we address illegal and unauthorised encampments.

There have been calls for a transit site to be established in Solihull and it has been argued by the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner that this would provide a guaranteed solution to the problem. However, this is not necessarily the case and I believe that residents need to know the facts in full.

In practice, these sites only serve as an effective solution to the problem of illegal or unauthorised encampments providing there are a sufficient number of pitches available to accommodate the entire travelling community. In the event that the number of vehicles in a particular encampment outnumber the available pitches, the authorities, including the council and the police, are powerless to direct travellers to the site.




This problem deeply concerns me. In the past we have seen encampments of over 40 vehicles and instances where travellers have exploited our laws to delay and frustrate the eviction process. It would altogether be too easy for travellers to form larger encampments in our area to simply outnumber our pitches, leaving us to face even larger encampments. In this scenario the police and local authority are powerless to disperse the camp without court authorisation.

Furthermore, if we were to proceed with a transit site this will raise other questions such as where in the borough would it be and what would the impact be on the settled community?


There is the added problem that when Solihull recently increased the number of authorised travellers’ sites to meet demand here we found the travellers did not want to use them for a variety of reasons such as not getting on with existing travellers in these sites.

It is clear from my correspondence with constituents on this topic that residents need a solution that is consistent and effective in tackling these illegal encampments.

For the reasons I have outlined above, a transit site cannot provide a guaranteed solution in all instances. This is why I am confident that the only way we can succeed in tackling the problem of illegal and unauthorised encampments is through a change in the law.

The government is currently consulting on changes to the law on these encampments and I encourage all readers to take part at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/powers-for-dealing-with-unauthorised-development-and-encampments

DAME CAROLINE SPELMAN

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