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Report called for over influx of illegal traveller camps across Walsall

By Gurdip Thandi | Walsall | Crime | Published:

Calls have been made for an examination into how traveller incursions have been dealt with following a number of incidents across Walsall.

A traveller incursion on New Invention Junior School playing fields. Photo: Councillor Adam Hicken

Worried residents called police and council officers to deal with a number of illegal encampments in the past few weeks on both public and private land in Willenhall, Aldridge, Brownhills, Bentley and in the town centre.

As a result, members of Walsall Council's scrutiny committee have asked for a 'lessons learned' report to be presented to them at a meeting next month to assess how the incursions were handled.

At a meeting on Tuesday, authority leader Mike Bird said he will be meeting the chief constable of West Midlands Police to discuss their response to encampments in the town.

Concerns were initially raised when a group broke into the playing fields of New Invention Junior School in June and destroyed an orchard planted by pupils.

It later emerged that Staffordshire Police had used special powers to remove the travellers from their county before 'escorting' them into the West Midlands.

Officers then had to deal with the group moving to Holland Park in Brownhills. Throughout July, there have been reports of incursions on Coppice Farm, Five Fields in Pool Hayes Lane, Emmanuel Church in Bentley as well as locations in Aldridge and two in Walsall town centre.

Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Shires said: "There is a need to have a report to enable us to speak about this.

"The first of the unauthorised encampments took place at New Invention Junior School playing fields. And it quickly escalated to two other sites in the Willenhall area – Coppice Farm and Five Fields off Pool Hayes Lane.

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Controversial

"Then there was Bentley, sites in Walsall town centre and Brownhills and Aldridge.

"The first incursion was controversial as it involved Staffs Police. I think there is a need for us to understand that situation as it did raise a number of serious concerns.

"The one on Coppice Farm was interesting because it cut across a boundary between Walsall and Wolverhampton.

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"They entered the site through Walsall and ended up camping across the two boroughs.

"They then moved to Wolverhampton who immediately involved bailiffs and the matter was resolved within 24 hours. There is a lesson to be learned from that.

"So if we need to bring a report to the next meeting with lessons learned and making sure we can identify sites that have been put forward by a number of members that are of concern that may be vulnerable in future."

Scrutiny committee chairman John Murray added: "We have injunction sites in Aldridge which travellers don't seem to take notice of."

Gurdip Thandi

By Gurdip Thandi
@Gurdo

Local Democracy Reporter covering Walsall.

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