Unauthorised traveller encampments have been an issue for so many people for so many years.
Despite this, I feel it was allowed to rumble on in the West Midlands without anyone coming up with a practical solution that suits everyone.
But this month I hosted a summit on such camps, getting everyone round the table – from police officers, to council executives and traveller groups – to thrash it out.
Together, we came up with an action plan to make the first positive steps towards a workable solution.
The plan includes the following main points:
- One set of protocols for the police and West Midlands councils, including clear, concise, real-time information that is easily shared and a joined-up approach to identifying and securing at-risk sites.
- Use of transit sites, ensuring local councils provide adequate sites with electricity and bathrooms and looking at the option of emergency stopping places. The Land Commission should also consider provision for the travelling community in its spatial strategy deliberations.
- Better protection of private businesses, including stronger police powers for companies that currently incur all costs if an unauthorised camp sets up on their land and a campaign to make it a criminal offence to occupy business premises.
- The sharing of staff, including having single points of contact to make it easier for all partners and to improve relations in the travelling communities.
- Better cross-border work in the wider West Midlands, including improving the way information is shared across the West Midlands borders and how the Combined Authority could improve this via its non-constituent members.
All of those involved in the summit will now work on making these proposals a reality because at the moment we are not doing the right job in the right way for everybody. This summit helped us see that and move forward on a more productive path for both the travelling community and settled population.
You can watch the meeting in full here.
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