TRAVELLERS have again trashed land outside a Rugby primary school, prompting calls for tougher police powers to tackle illegal camps.
Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball said children at Rugby Free Primary School are being kept at home by worried parents ‘intimitated’ by the travellers, who have set up camp outside the school three times since it opened in September.
Travellers left debris including human and food waste, and random items like fishing rods and a toy tractor, outside the school this week.
Previous visits have forced the Bailey Road school to pay for damages to playground equipment and hire 24-hour security to prevent further disruptions.
Mr Ball called for the Government to grant more powers to local authorities to tackle illegal sites, and asked Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Communities Minister Greg Clark to visit the site and see the problem for themselves.
Mr Ball also hit out at the government for not fulfilling promises.
He said: “Before the last General Election, the then-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the issue of travellers occupying land ‘requires attention as soon as we get a Conservative government re-elected’.
“To date, no new powers have been enacted and I would urge ministers to look at the situation here in Rugby to understand how the current limitations in the existing legislation handicap the police and local authorities in dealing swiftly with unauthorised encampments when they occur at sensitive locations.
“Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the travellers are causing a situation which is distressing the children and parents, some of whom feel intimidated by their presence. I have had reports of parents keeping their children at home because of this.
“The problem is made worse by the fact that neither the local authority nor the police have effective powers to swiftly move on such encampments when they occur. I’m urging the Government to make good on their earlier promises to look at the situation and introduce new legislation.”
Mr Ball added not all travellers were intent on causing problems but the groups who behaved irresponsibly made it much more difficult to find accommodation sites around the county that local communities would find acceptable.
Police currently only have the power to move travellers off a site when there is a suitable alternative for them to move onto. It is up to the local authority to obtain court orders to move camps off public land – but the process is slow, with an average of three weeks before an order is approved.
Proposals to increase the number of emergency stopping sites for travellers is set to be debated by Warwickshire County Council’s Cabinet tomorrow (Thursday December 10).