Rise in number of illegal travellers’ sites this summer

A travellers camp in Fishermead last week
A travellers camp in Fishermead last week

Milton Keynes Council has dealt with more than 60 illegal encampments by travellers this year – at a cost of over £10,000 to taxpayers.

The council, in partnership with Thames Valley Police and The Parks Trust, has dished out enforcement orders to 62 illegal camp sites in 2013, the majority of which have come during a busier than normal summer.

Last year the council dealt with 48 encampments, often made up of travellers from the Republic of Ireland who come to the UK to work during the summer months. In 2011 there were 52 recorded sites.

Of the 62 encampments this year, about 12 of them are believed to be the same group who have frustrated both local residents and the council by simply moving on to another nearby site after being given their marching orders from one – in some cases just a few hundred yards down the road.

Despite the frustration of persistent travellers – and the huge cost of cleaning up after them – councillor Peter Geary, the cabinet member for Communities, Corporate Services and Transformation, insists it has not been a particularly bad year.

“Although it is frustrating for people, I think it is worth remembering that going back 10 years or further it was not unusual to have more than 100 illegal encampments a year. It was a huge problem,” he said.

Milton Keynes currently has two permanent travellers’ sites at Calverton and Willen, with a total of 18 pitches. Mr Geary says that making extra permanent space available would not solve the problem of ‘transit travellers’. Instead he is determined to chase up those responsible for leaving rubbish and make them pay for it.

He said: “We know many of the travellers who arrived this year because they are the same families that come every year. We know they don’t want a permanent place to stay.

“We have had some success in recovering some of the cost of clearing up their rubbish that is dumped after they go, but it isn’t always possible.”