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In Full . . .

Sajid to act over traveller camps

Posted on September 03 2014 at 12:06:43

Public forum

Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid faced a room full of irate Alvechurch residents when he held a public forum in the village in August.

Although the meeting was intended for the MP to discuss various local issues, there was only one thing on villagers’ minds: the traveller encampment on a private field off Birmingham Road, which had lasted for 17 days until the group departed that very evening.

Around 120 people packed into Alvechurch Village Hall (below) where Sajid was joined by Local Policing Commander Insp Sarah Corteen and county and district councillor June Griffiths, who chaired the meeting.

Addressing the traveller issue, Mr Javid said Britain was a country of laws and everyone – rich or poor – had to abide by them.

It was unacceptable for people to think they could ignore the laws, and although there had been some legal changes recently, the Alvechurch situation showed that more needed to be done – he felt that the police were not always aware of the “tools they have in their box”.

He also remarked that the coalition government had revoked the “minority status” previously held by gypsies and travellers, so there was no longer a “diversity issue”.

Mr Javid added: “They are not poor downtrodden people – they are criminals.” 

He planned to use his position as a Cabinet Minister to push for further changes to the law, but for now the most important thing was to get the encampment site cleaned up and learn lessons for the future.

Both Mr Javid and Insp Corteen reiterated that because the land was privately owned, the police and council could do nothing unless criminal acts were committed on the land. Insp Corteen said West Mercia Police had a policy of not carrying out forced evictions, but they did carry out targeted patrols as well as responding to any calls about crime or anti-social behaviour.

In response to residents’ opinions that crime increases each time the travellers visit, Insp Corteen said the police had received 11 logged calls during this incursion.

One was about an unrelated burglary at St Laurence Church, and the rest were about anti-social behaviour such as loud music or shooting rabbits.

She said that this was “annoying but not criminal”, although one villager suggested that people don’t always report crimes as they find the travellers intimidating.

The meeting threatened to get out of hand on several occasions as Mr Javid, the police and the councils were accused of letting people down and not knowing the law, while the decision that Bromsgrove District Council would clean up the field was met with complaints about the cost coming out of taxpayers’ money.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Javid was presented with a petition organised by the Alvechurch Village Society Facebook group, demanding more robust action against travellers.

He promised to take up their concerns with planning minister Brandon Lewis MP, and also to return to Alvechurch for a second forum solely about travellers.

Since the meeting, the field’s owner has placed concrete blocks at the entrance in the hope of preventing further incursions.

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