Calls to toughen up ‘failing’ laws to stop travellers in Solihull
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 last night (Wednesday) heard concerns from local people about the response to unauthorised camps, which the authorities concede increased in the borough over the past two summers.
Cllr 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.
Cllr Dicicco 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 travellers, 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. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/powers-for-dealing-with-unauthorised-development-and-encampments
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.
He said that law enforcement agencies were working together to try and deal with the issue, as well as holding discussions with the borough’s two MPs.
Read more: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/calls-toughen-up-failing-laws-14700355