At this month Full Council meeting the conservative group proposed a motion to make the eviction of travellers from public land quicker and easier. This followed a number of illegal encampments this summer on the Downs and Horfield Common, some (not all!) of which caused major problems for residents. Previously we have suffered from similar problems at both Blaise and Arnall Drive in recent years.
Unfortunately the three other parties on the Council voted down the motion, calling us racists in the process.
It hopefully goes without saying that our motion wasn't about racism or victimising anybody, but about enforcing the law effectively for everyone. The frustrating thing about all of this is that the Council already routinely evicts travellers who camp on public land. It's just that the process of eviction takes several days if not weeks. What we tried to do was to make it quicker and easier.
Sadly we weren't successful, so I suspect we can look forward to more lengthy encampments while the Council works through the slow and painful legal processes each time one occurs. Despite the defeat I have written to the Government advocating a more stream lined process.
I've copied the full text of our motion below so you can see exactly what we proposed:
“This Council, together with most Bristolians, has become exasperated by the incursions of illegal traveller encampments on much loved green spaces around our city, including the Downs, Highridge Common and Horfield Common. As a result, hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying Bristolians and their families were prevented this Summer from unfettered access to these vital public places. At the same time, the costly Council managed traveller transit camps, whose running expenses fall on Bristol council tax payers, were not fully utilised.
The costs of clearing up our green spaces, often after a lengthy illegal occupation, are high and the Council presently makes no effort to recoup these costs from the offending travellers themselves. Likewise, no attempt is made to recoup the legal fees of the court action required by Bristol City Council to evict these groups.
Many local authorities around the country appear to have found an extremely effective enforcement measure. For example, London boroughs have applied to the High Court for interim injunctions, which cover both named individuals and persons unknown from establishing unlawful sites across their whole administrative geographical area.
Council therefore urges the Mayor to investigate this as a matter of urgency with a view to adopting this approach in Bristol.
In addition, as political pressure continues to grow to find a permanent solution to this problem, some 59 Conservative MPs have backed a proposal to make acts of deliberate or intentional trespass onto private or public land a new criminal offence. This move would mirror the position recently adopted by Eire, which has proved very effective in reducing illegal traveller incursions.
Council calls on the Mayor to add his support to this initiative by writing to the Prime Minister, Theresa May and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, James Brokenshire MP and requesting that sufficient Parliamentary time is made available to enable this long overdue legislative change to take place.”