Thirty-six illegal traveller camps so far this year in Walsall, figures show

Travellers have set up illegal camps in Walsall 36 times so far this year – with almost half of those involving two families.

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

Members of Walsall Council’s scrutiny overview committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss the influx of unauthorised encampments (UEs) across the borough in the past two months.

A report to the committee reveals there were 21 illegal camps set up on public land and 15 on private land between January and July.

It says officers believe that at least 17 of these encampments involved the same two families moving to different locations.

The estimated cost of dealing with each encampment – including legal fees and cleaning up sites – is around £3,500, totalling approximately £126,000.

Despite this high number of incursions for 2020, it is still less than the same period in any of the past five years, most notably in 2016 when there were 51 on council land and 18 on private.

The matter was called to scrutiny by committee member and Walsall Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Shires, who said they needed to look at progress on the town opening a transit site, as well as other measures such as injunctions and beefed up security measures.

Incursions

It follows a series of incursions in Willenhall – including at New Invention Junior School playing fields, Brownhills, Aldridge, Bentley and in the town centre.

The report to committee said: "Officers are aware of the impact a UE can have on residents and local businesses and always give this area of work a high priority.

"However, with the impact of coronavirus workloads on other areas of the work of the community protection team are unprecedentedly high.

"Therefore a decision was made to engage bailiffs to act on behalf of the authority for all UEs for the time being.

"Previously bailiffs would be engaged only in relation to injunction sites and where there was a history of threats to officers from a known family or group.

“Two family groups have accounted for at least 17 of the UEs in the borough this year. This is in relation to both council and private land.

"One family has not set up camp in the borough for at least two months. Legal services are being consulted on whether different, targeted action can be taken in relation to the second family."

It added: "Work is ongoing to identify a suitable location for the establishment of a transit site."

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