Star comment: Action on travellers is essential
It is a great shame that council bosses have been forced to resort to stringent security measures in order to tackle the scourge of illegal traveller camps.
The Barr Beacon beauty spot in Walsall could soon see mounds of concrete piled up at its entrances in a last ditch bid to keep travellers out.
And a similar scheme is likely to go ahead at Doe Bank Park.
While to many people such measures may appear to be extreme, they are entirely justified and necessary.
The Black Country has just experienced a summer that has seen numerous areas of public and private land wrecked by unauthorised encampments.
This has gone on for years now, and sadly it is getting worse.
In 2017 we have seen a greater number of illegal camps in some parts of the region, with the West Midlands disproportionately affected in comparison to other areas of the UK.
The message is clear.
Some members of the travelling community clearly see this area as a soft touch. It is viewed as a place where illegal camps can be set up without sanction by the authorities.
This can no longer be accepted.
The good news is that ministers appear to be ready to take action over the issue.
Both Labour and Conservative politicians from this region have been some of the most vocal in the country when it comes to calling for a solution.
In some quarters there is a view that the current powers afforded to the authorities are not strong enough.
However, it is questionable whether the laws that are available are being effectively used by our councils and police forces.
It may only be a minority of travellers that cause problems, but their actions have far reaching consequences for the communities they destroy.
Too often, the impression is that those in power are more interested in not causing offence to the perpetrators than looking out for the interests of residents.
This simply has to change. And it must change now.
While the Government may well come up with new measures to address the problem of illegal traveller camps, in the meantime it is imperative that those powers already available are being properly utilised.