Travellers return to seafront and Weston car park
- Credit: Archant
Travellers have set up camp on the Beach Lawns and Madeira car park in Weston-super-Mare.
Around 20 caravans parked up on the Beach Lawns last week, while another group filled Melrose car park.
North Somerset Council issued both groups with a direction and got a possession order from the court to evict the travellers, but they had moved on before it was issued.
The travellers left piles of rubbish and human excrement at Melrose car park – forcing the council to close the facility so it could be cleaned.
The council’s deputy leader Mile Bell said: “We now have two new groups – one on Beach Lawns and one on Madeira car park. The Madeira group has tried to enter Melrose car park, but our parking team were able to block access.
“We have, in the past few months, had unauthorised encampments in Portishead, at Walliscote Place car park, at Hutton Moor, on Coronation and in Clarence Park too.
“At the moment the process on council land is that we have to undertake welfare checks (particularly on children) and then can issue a notice to leave.
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“If this is ignored, we must obtain an order from a magistrates’ court before we can enforce removal.
“This is the bit which takes the most time as we cannot always get a court date quickly – particularly at the moment due to Covid restrictions in courts.”
Councillors are calling for a change in the law to make it easier for local authorities to tackle unauthorised encampments.
Cllr Bell has also asked the authority’s chief executive to urgently look at options for a transit site for traveller groups, to investigate preventative measures to deter encampments at key public sites, to ensure the council is using its existing powers effectively and to challenge police on their ‘hands-off’ approach.
He added: “The problem with unauthorised encampments is that they are often in high profile public spaces and therefore impact on other people’s ability to use it.
“It costs the council to clean up after encampments, to enforce removal legal action and sometimes lost income in parking for example.
“The Government needs to make the process more simple and speedy. It can take a week or more to get action at the moment.
“The Government also needs to direct the police to move on encampments where they are in public amenity space such as parks and car parks. It’s not on for the community to miss out because of where people choose to set up camp.”