Staggering figures released by the council show the staggering cost of cleaning up Solihull parks after travellers have moved on.
The leafy borough has seen multiple unauthorised encampments in the last 18 months – the most recent convoy of caravans pitched up at the former Toys R Us car park at Sears Retail park in Shirley in July.
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The figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request to the local authority, show the council’s bill hit £101,000 in the period from 2016 to the first half of this year.
There were 22 sites in the borough – with three sites used more than once within that period.
The local authority were forced to shell out a huge £12,000 to clear just one site in May last year, according to figures.
Yet the clean-up of one illegal camp, which was occupied for 19 days, cost £200.
A convoy of travellers moved on to land near a leafy part of Solihull just yards from streets boasting £1 million homes.
Around 20 caravans set up camp between Woodside Way and Streetsbrook Road.
On the same street in August 2017, travellers again pitched up in land near Streetsbrook Road – this time the bill to make the area good topped £6500.
May 2017 also saw travellers camp at the council-owned Bentley Heath park for five days.
The staggering bill to clear away the rubbish and litter came to another £12,000.
The convoy were eventually moved on by police under a Section 61 order
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman assured residents ‘she would continue to closely monitor the situation ‘.
And in January 2017 travellers camped up on Old Damson Lane for more than two weeks leading to a shocking clean up bill of £10,000.
North Solihull saw a wave of unauthorised incursions in May this year with one encampment at Heath Park, off Bluebell Drive, Chelmsley Wood, costing the authority an astonishing £11,000 to clear.
Solihull Council said: “To support the evidence gathering it is very important that as many local residents as possible report any anti-social or criminal behaviour to the police by calling 101.
“This helps build a picture of the situation for the court to consider when a case is presented to them.”
What does the council say?
Councillor Alison Rolf, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities & Partnerships, said: “We have developed a comprehensive strategy to deal with unauthorised encampments, which involves working closely with the police, legal system and other local authorities. This has resulted in our successful application to the High Court for an injunction against a particular family who had caused significant disruption within the borough.
“We have reviewed all of our parks and open spaces with regards to access, however it would be very difficult to make every site in the borough totally secure. We have carried out a significant amount of work by installing additional security measures including height restriction barriers, bollards, gates and padlocks, and so far these have been largely successful.
“In doing so, we’ve made sure that we retain the pleasing aesthetics and the ‘Urbs in Rure’ elements that these spaces offer. This has been particularly evident in our use of wildflowers on the mounds that were built on certain sites.
“It’s really important that local communities continue to work with us and the police to help prevent these incursions. We need people who use our parks and open spaces to be our eyes and ears as the more evidence we can gather, the stronger our case will be to deter and ultimately prevent them.
“Be reassured our priority is to our residents and minimising the impact these incursions have on them and local communities.”
What does Friends Families and Travellers say?
Sarah Sweeney from Friends Families and Travellers, a national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies, Travellers and Roma , said: “There is a chronic national shortage of Gypsy and Traveller sites in England. 16% of caravans in the July 2017 national caravan count were on unauthorised land, largely as a result of this.
“This means that many Gypsy and Traveller families are statutorily homeless and have interrupted access to basic water and sanitation, education and healthcare.
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“Many traditional stopping places and green lanes where Gypsy and Traveller families have stopped for centuries have systematically been closed off, forcing Gypsy and Traveller families to stop in public spaces. Everyone needs a place to live and local authorities must begin to allocate land in their Local Plan where Gypsies and Travellers can stop in their areas.
(Image: Birmingham Mail)
“Instead of spending money on clear up and legal fees when a Gypsy or Traveller families pull up in a public space, local authorities could instead employ the ‘Negotiated Stopping’ approach – where they provide waste and rubbish disposal, agree on the amount of time Travellers can stay in a location and in turn can direct Gypsy and Traveller families away from contentious locations. This approach has been found to offer cost savings to local authorities and also greatly improves community cohesion between settled and travelling communities.”
What do Solihull Police say?
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.
Park or Green Spaces
How many days
|Old Damson Lane||26/01/16 – 10/02/16||16||£10,000|
|Monkspath Car Park||27/02/16 – 27/02/16||1||£1500|
|Old Damson Lane||22/05/16 – 23/05/16||2||£1500|
|Damson Park||28/06/2016 – 07/07/16||10||£3500|
|Tudor Grange Leisure Centre||04/01/17 – 09/01/17||6||£2000|
|Streetsbrook O/S||15/05/17 – 23/05/17||9||£12000|
|Bentley Heath Park||26/05/17 – 30/05/17||5||£12000|
|Beechcroft O/S||22/07/17 – 24/07/17||3||£5500|
|Bentley Heath Park||27/07/01 – 01/08/17||6||£5000|
|Babbs Mill Park||30/07/17 – 01/08/07||2||£1500|
|Streetsbrook O/S||01/08/17 – 04/08/17||4||£6500|
|Shirley Park||05/08/17 – 10/08/17||6||£3000|
|Palmers Rough||11/08/17 – 14/08/17||4||£5000|
|Rothwell Drive||14/08/17 – 16/08/17||3||£2000|
|Tudor Grange Leisure Centre||19/08/17 – 20/08/17||2||£2000|
|Monkspath Hall Road CP||06/9/17 – 12/9/17||7||£2000|
|North Solihull Sports Centre||14/09/17 – 15/09/17||2||£3000|
|Tudor Grange Park||15/09/17 – 15/09/17||1||£1500|
|Streetsbrook O/S||15/05/17 – 23/05/17||9||£1200|
|Brueton Park||21/09/17 – 25/09/17||5||£1500|
|Babbs Mill Park||08/13/18 – 13/03/18||6||£3000|
|Heath Park||11/05/18 – 14/05/18||4||£11,000|
|Babbs Mill Park||15/05/18 – 16/05/18||2||£3500|
|Babbs Mill Park||
03/06/18 – 06/06/18
|Kineton Green Road||23/02/16 – 11/03/16||19||£200|
|Monkspath Hall Road Car Park||20/07/17 – 28/07/17||9||£600|
|Active Angels||24/07/17 – 25/07/17||2||£700|
|Hillfield Park||18/09/17 – 18/09/17||1||£600|
|Tudor Grange Golf Car Park||26/09/17 – 27/09/17||2||£400|
|Dengate Drive Balsall Common||17/05/18 – 17/05/18||1||£600|
Visit www.solihull.gov.uk/encampments for further information
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