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Four traveller groups arrive in the Black Country

By Gurdip Thandi | Walsall | News | Published:

Four traveller groups set up illegal camps across the Back Country – just days after another encampment had left a trail of destruction on school fields.

A group of travellers have set up an illegal camp on Coppice Farm Park. Photo: Councillor Adam Hicken

Around 15 vans arrived on Coppice Farm park in New Invention, Willenhall, on Wednesday prompting worried calls to local councillors from residents.

The park spreads across the borough’s border with Wolverhampton and the group has settled on land belonging to the city.

But it has emerged a number of vans have also set up near a Bentley church, arriving earlier this week, while there is currently a group on undisclosed private land in Walsall town centre.

Walsall Council officers dealt with travellers who had illegally set up camp at the Challenge Building site in the town centre and they have been moved on.

West Midlands Police and both local authorities are aware of the encampments.

Willenhall North councillor and Walsall Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Shires said: "There have been four incursions across the borough with those at Coppice Farm the last to arrive.

"So it really does appear that Walsall is being targeted. The sheer volume of incursions is going to stretch the community protection team at Walsall Council."

He added that when he was contacted about the Coppice Farm incursion, he contacted the authority and also alerted his elected counterparts in Wolverhampton.

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Conservative Willenhall North councillor Adam Hicken said residents in the area were worried following incident’s last week where a large group of travellers broke into New Invention Junior School’s playing fields, destroyed a fruit tree orchard planting by children and started bonfires and reportedly committed theft and anti-social behaviour in the area.

The group – which had been escorted into the area by Staffordshire Police – were finally removed on July 2.

Councillor Hicken said: "People are definitely fearful. I’ve not had any reports yet of anti-social behaviour or crime.

"I’m hoping we don’t get those following what happened in New Invention so it’s a case of wait and see.

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"If they are well behaved and not creating a mess then that’s fine and I wish them safe travels."

A West Midlands Police spokesman said all the incursions were being monitored currently.

A spokesman for Walsall Council said: "We have been made aware of Unauthorised Encampments (UEs) and the community protection team are working hard to resolve the issues.

"Occupants have now vacated the land on the Challenge Car Park, Hatherton Street following prompt action and a forced eviction.

"Officers have responded to and are following up the UE on land adjacent to Emmanuelle Church in Cairn Drive.

"We have also been made aware of caravans on private land in Walsall Town Centre and have advised the landowners on this matter.

"Community protection continue to respond swiftly to all reports of UE’s in the borough."

A Wolverhampton City Council spokesman added: "We are aware of a traveller incursion on public land behind Coppice Performing Arts School. We are liaising with bailiffs and have started the legal process to move them on."

Gurdip Thandi

By Gurdip Thandi
@Gurdo

Local Democracy Reporter covering Walsall.

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