Urgent appeal for more traveller sites in Warwick district after 'children intimidated'

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Warwick District Council has issued an urgent appeal for potential gypsy and traveller sites after a councillor highlighted incidents of children being intimidated on their way to school.

Cllr John-Paul Bromley (Lab, Saltisford) told last night’s (Wednesday January 23) full council meeting that the group of gypsies and travellers near to Warwick Racecourse late last year had caused the problems.

He said: “With regard to gypsies and travellers, when they were camping on St Mary’s Lands it caused a lot of tension and grief for parents of children going to Aylesford School when there were intimidation issues.

"We [the council] were given money to try and protect open areas so how can you reassure the local community in light of the levels of tension caused?”

His question followed comments made by the council’s portfolio holder for development services Cllr Alan Rhead (Con, Budbrooke) who explained what had happened elsewhere in the county.

He said: “A county council has failed to remove a group of travellers from farming land they have occupied since 2016 after a judge backed an inspector’s ruling that the local authority did not have adequate provision for traveller site pitches.

“I mention this since we all urgently need to identify potential sites - both temporary and permanent - within our district so that we can continue to remove any unauthorised travellers.

“Unfortunately the recent unauthorised encampments has seen gypsy and traveller behaviour that only feeds the general prejudices towards the community.

"What happened in this case has put back the goodwill that we were trying to have with the traveller community. If they were properly policed by themselves it would give us a better chance of finding these sites but this has put us back months and months.”

Cllr Moira-Ann Grainger (Con Woodloes) said work was ongoing to try and limit the places where the camps could be set up.

She explained: “What happened in Warwick was slightly ironic because they arrived on the site the day before additional barriers were due to be installed. They are now installed.

“We now have a telephone network with our neighbouring boroughs so that if travellers are on the move, car parks can be locked with arrangements being made with those locked in to move their cars at a later time and that has worked very effectively in the last couple of weeks.

“In terms of intimidation, all I can ask is that all cases are reported to the police. I know there were comments over Christmas that the police didn’t react quickly enough and there were other times when they reacted very quickly.

"But incidents need to be reported because that’s the only way the police can activate their responsibilities quicker.”