Another summer of unauthorised traveller encampments could be on the way in Milton Keynes

Travellers in MK
Travellers in MK

Milton Keynes could be in for another "summer of misery" with illegal traveller camps pitching up all over the city, Conservative councillors have warned.

Last summer saw a record number of travellers setting up unauthorised camps in fields, lay-bys and parks, particularly in the western flank of MK.

Tory councillors are now worried the same could happen this summer.

In the past few weeks, three unauthorised encampments have been reported - a sharp rise on previous months.

One resident said: "Within a couple of days, mess was being created and bags of rubbish were everywhere."

"The fact that still little is being done despite reports over the past couple of years means that it is just getting worse."

MK Council announced plans earlier this year to clamp down on illegal camps. Officers were investigating ways to combat the problem and these included gaining extra powers through issuing injunctions.

But Tories this week urged them to hurry up.

Cllr James Lancaster said: "I'm incredibly frustrated that the Council has not done more. They promised to get injunctions, yet we’ve not seen anything almost a year on.

"Residents’ memories of last summer are still raw. The council promised to support residents. Let's hope they stick by their word, but the summer months are fast approaching.

"There are a lot of ‘hot spots’ on the Western Flank - we need injunctions in place, now."

He has urged residents to keep reporting to the council when they see encampments set up.

Council leader Pete Marland responded: “The number of encampments is down by over 50% last year due to the measures we’ve put in place such as improvement physical barriers. Encampments which are reported by the public are being dealt with much faster due to the extra enforcement resources we have made available.

"The MK Conservatives are well aware, and have been fully briefed internally, on the issue of injunctions. It is very frustrating that despite having this information they are politically exploiting the fact that to discuss these matters publicly would put success in danger. It is a mark of their style of opposition that they prefer a short term headline to the risk they take with making progress.

"The fact remains that despite our best efforts locally, the national legislation in this area remains weak. Our two Tory MPs supported the Government when they relaxed the law in this area a few years ago, and the reality is they’ve done nothing but talk when it’s MK Council picking up the bill and residents living with the issues. You’d think the MK Conservatives had forgotten they’ve been in Government with two MPs in MK for nearly a decade."