Safer, greener communities

My letter to City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby regarding unauthorised traveller camps

Dear Peter

Re: Unauthorised Traveller Camps

As you are aware, unauthorised traveller camps have been a long-standing issue for the city. I am often contacted by a significant number of constituents who are very concerned about the impact these camps can have on their community – as I understand my predecessor, Patricia Hewitt, was too.

The problems tend to be concentrated in Beaumont Leys and Mowmacre, due to the historical ties these areas have with seasonal farm work. However, I very much see this as a city wide problem, for which a city wide solution is urgently required.

In order to directly hear the views and concerns of my constituents, I held a very well attended public meeting on the 2nd September 2011 at St Patricks Church in Beaumont Leys.  At the meeting I shared a platform with the Beaumont Leys Ward Councillors, Cllr Mohammed Dawood, Matt Bagley from the Multi Agency Travellers Unit and Sgt Simon Ward. Members of the Gypsy and Traveller Equality Project were also present.

You will not be surprised to hear that local residents aired extremely strong feelings at the meeting. They told me they are very concerned about antisocial behaviour, fly tipping and traffic offences at unauthorised traveller sites. They feel it still takes too long to move unauthorised travellers on.  Many residents also expressed a deep sense of unfairness that they have to abide by the law, including paying their Council Tax, yet they feel the same rules do not apply to the travelling community.

There was a specific concern over the site on Greengate Lane. Initially, residents were informed that a family would be able to stay on the site as a temporary measure until their situation stabilised, as one of the family members was suffering from severe ill health. However, some three years on the family and indeed other travellers are still there, and residents feel that Greengate Lane is now becoming a permanent site by stealth.

Overall, there was a huge sense of frustration and anger amongst local residents about the perceived lack of progress by the City Council in tackling this issue and in finding a lasting solution.  Members of the traveller community who were present, as part of the Gypsy and Traveller Equality project, also talked about their frustrations regarding the lack of permanent or transit sites available.

In my view, there is a very clear and pressing need for the City Council to produce a comprehensive strategy that seeks to address the concerns of both the settled and traveller communities. The establishment of sufficient transit sites and additional authorised permanent plots appears to be the only viable, long term solution.

I must emphasise that whilst the issue is of grave concern to many of my constituents, this is a city wide issue, for which a city wide solution must be found.

Cllr Dawood gave an undertaking to report back on the Council’s progress on this issue in November. It is vital that real and substantial progress is made by this date. As the Mayor of Leicester I know you will ensure this happens.

In the meanwhile, I would be very grateful if you could update me on the Council’s plans so I can report directly back to my constituents.

With best wishes as ever

Liz Kendall MP
Member of Parliament for Leicester West

CC: Cllr Mohammed Dawood, Cllr Sundip Meghani, Cllr Paul Westley, Cllr Vi Dempster, Mr Matt Bagley