South West Bedfordshire MP, Andrew Selous, raised unauthorised traveller encampments in the House of Commons yesterday. This is a significant issue around the new A5-M1 and Woodside Link roads. Central Bedfordshire Council have called for some changes in the law to strengthen the powers of the police and local authorities.
Speaking afterwards, Andrew Selous said “I am very aware of how much upset unauthorised traveller encampments are causing locally. I certainly do not believe it is acceptable for travellers to own land elsewhere which they let out in order to camp illegally in south Bedfordshire. I also think that very serious questions need to be asked about traveller children not going to school. The law is very weak in this area and I do not think it serves the children of traveller families well.”
“I will be meeting later this week with Central Bedfordshire Council, Bedfordshire Police, Highways England and Land Improvement Holdings to make sure that all the different organisations involved in this issue are working together as cooperatively and as constructively as possible.”
The exchange in Hansard was as follows:
Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
What steps his Department is taking to tackle unauthorised Traveller encampments.
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Alok Sharma)
As my hon. Friend knows, the Government are concerned about unauthorised encampments and the effect they can have on settled communities. That is why we will be issuing a call for evidence on the effectiveness of enforcement against unauthorised developments and encampments. I will publish that call for evidence shortly.
On a daily basis, Central Bedfordshire Council is dealing with completely unacceptable numbers of unauthorised Traveller encampments. Many of those Travellers own land elsewhere, and many of their children are not in school, so when will the Government’s consultation lead to appropriate powers being made available to all local authorities, including my own?