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Human rights mean travellers won't be banned from Walsall

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | News | Published:

Travellers cannot be banned from Walsall due to fears over violating their human rights, council bosses have said.

Travellers at Walsall Arboretum earlier this year

Walsall Council chiefs have resisted pushing for an outright ban over fears they could be challenged over discrimination.

Some 25 sites are protected from camps in the borough but there have been calls for measures to go further.

But a new report reveals fears about being pulled up if the council comes down too hard on travellers.

The report, which is due to go to full council, next week said: “Gypsies, travellers and Roma people are recognised ethnic groups and living a travelling lifestyle is part of their culture.

“It is considered that an application for an injunction prohibiting unauthorised encampments from all sites across the borough will put the authority in breach of its equality duty without provision of a site in the borough that can be used be people who follow a travelling lifestyle, commonly referred to as a transit site.”

Council leader Mike Bird said the borough needed a ‘real solution’ rather than bringing in a total ban.

The authority is considering setting up a transit site where travellers can legally pitch up, and in turn give the council more powers to shift groups who camp on public spaces, as has happened in neighbouring Sandwell.

Several groups have set up in Walsall over recent months, including at Walsall Arboretum in June.

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Councillor Bird said: “It is frustrating but an injunction just pushes the problem somewhere else.

"While it would be beneficial it doesn’t solve the problem. What we need is a permanent solution.

"We are looking at what has been done in Sandwell and seeing what works and what doesn't."

He added: “What about our human rights? It seems to be the perpetrators who get the support from human rights legislation.

“It becomes very expensive if you end up in the High Court. Until we have tried everything else we haven’t got a defence.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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