Council chiefs promise a tough stance on travellers

The leader of Dudley Council has vowed that the authority will be working closer with police and use eviction powers wherever legally possible to tackle illegal encampments on public open spaces.

Councillor Patrick Harley announced the tough stance following a number of illegal traveller incursions including near to Milking Bank primary school, Grange Park, Dudley, and Woodside Park.

The council and police use statutory powers to move travellers on through the courts which can take several days.

But the council also has powers under common law which allows them to bring in bailiffs to evict travellers if they set up camp on high risk council-owned land, such as next to schools.

Councillor Harley said the council will be using common law powers wherever it can to speed up the process. He said:

“Let me be clear, we will not tolerate people who illegally set up camp on public land, causing untold damage which then leaves the tax-payer with a huge bill for cleaning up and repairing the damage.

“Incidents like these leave the tax-payer out of pocket because we have to spend time and money cleaning up after them. We are doing everything we can to minimise this added financial burden on the people of this borough.

"I am meeting regularly with the police to ensure our working relationship is robust and clear and we will do everything we can to move travellers on as quickly as possible.”

Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member for environmental services, added:

“The legal system can often be drawn out and frustrating for the council and residents living near to these sites. While we will always abide by the law, we must do all we can to protect people, the land and the public purse and that means using common law powers wherever possible.

“We have cleaned up the site in Milking Bank and we are working on Grange Park after the travellers were moved on to ensure it is ready for a community event this weekend. Waste included trees and shrubs as well as beds and other furniture, paint, timber, plaster, old roofing, bathroom furniture and excrement which requires the services of a hazardous waste contractor. It has cost the council more than £14,000 to clear the two sites.

“The travellers moved to Woodside and we also have travellers on Overfield Road.  This is becoming a cat and mouse game and the travellers are well aware that they are not welcome in Dudley borough. Everything we can do to be proactive is being done."

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