Illegal traveller camp shows no sign of moving from Milton Keynes school site as council is urged to 'get a grip'

A large encampment of travellers is refusing to budge after forcing a school to close.

By Sally Murrer
Monday, 11th July 2022, 2:27 pm

There are now more than 30 vans in the sports field at Oakgrove School, which was unable to open today due to the safeguarding risk to pupils and staff.

The travellers arrived on Friday, allegedly smashing through the metal gates to the field to gain access, and were given notice to move on by 8am this morning (Monday).

But the Citizen visited the site at lunchtime and even more vans seemed to have arrived.

More vans seemed to have arrived

There were adults sitting enjoying the sunshine, children playing, dogs roaming and many black sacks full of rubbish around the field.

The school, which has more than 2,000 pupils aged between three and 19, fears it will now have to cancel its sports day tomorrow and the secondary students’ site could remain closed until the travellers move on.

Meanwhile MK Conservatives, together with Tory MP Ben Everitt, are demanding the Labour-Lib Dem council takes more action.

Mr Everitt told the Citizen: “This illegal encampment is absolutely outrageous and brings disruption and inconvenience to students, parents and staff.”

Oakgrove School

Manish Verma, deputy leader of Milton Keynes Conservatives, said: “Oakgrove School has been forced to switch to virtual learning after travellers set up camp on their school field over the weekend, which has caused concern to parents over the impact on their children’s education.

“Nationally we’ve seen a failure from Labour and the Liberal Democrats to take illegal encampments seriously by voting against tougher action.

“We need the Labour-Lib Dem Council here in Milton Keynes to get a grip and put our schoolchildren first, rather than letting this disruption to their education continue.”

The Conservative Government last month passed a Bill giving extra powers to clamp down on illegal encampments, including a prison sentence of up to three years, which Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against.

Mr Everitt voted in favour of the bill, known as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act

He said: “Labour and the Lib Dems voted against the Act but I will always stand on the side of the law-abiding majority and on the side of the police.”

The bill has new statutory guidelines to limit the harm caused by unauthorised encampments. Trespassers who set up camp illegally on other people’s land or in local communities can face up to three months in prison, and police can now be able to ban trespassers from returning to a patch of land for a year, rather than just three months.

The definition of harm will be broadened, so police can take more decisive action to tackle unauthorised encampments when necessary.

They can also intervene where unauthorised encampments are causing environmental damage or distress to the community – not just the landowner.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "No one should have unchecked rights to trespass on other people’s land, or cause misery in communities without consequence.

“The position in law is now very clear – trespassers must move their vehicles when asked to do so, or face jail time and a hefty fine.

“Illegal encampments cause misery for thousands of people: they damage and pollute environments and often result in local residents facing unacceptable intimidation on their own doorstep.”