As we know, the sizable group of travellers who were camped on Cofton Park last week have now moved to park land adjacent to Reaside Clinic. One traveller told the Birmingham Mail that they would be moving on yesterday, but they were still there last night and we have not had any reports of any movement as yet.
A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said, “The encampment at Reaside is on private land. Accordingly the City Council
has no duty to effect removal although we will liaise with the landlords and provide advice accordingly.”
Councillor Ian Cruise has told us that he had worked with West Midlands Police to ensure an eviction notice is served and his colleague Councillor Andy Cartwright has met with the manager of Reaside Clinic to offer advice and support.
On the Reaside encampment, Councillor Ken Wood told us, “Reaside Clinic does not fall under our remit and any removal notices and increased security is the responsibility of the landowner. I know that this is in hand.”
Glynis Markham, director of strategic development, at Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, which runs Reaside, told the Birmingham Mail “Travellers moved onto an open, green area behind Reaside Clinic between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, by which time approximately 30 vehicles were on the site.
“An attempt to resolve the situation informally was made yesterday, when a senior Trust executive informed the travellers they were trespassing and verbally gave them notice to quit.
“Despite assurances from the travellers that they would leave the site that evening, they remained on our site, so we are now in the process of taking appropriate action through the courts in order to resolve this situation.”
Richard Burden MP has suggested that better provision for travellers may cost less than the huge costs of constantly moving on travellers and clearing up after them. He said, “[…]this all costs a fortune and we’ve got to move beyond this revolving door where either the Council, the Police or both move travellers on only for them to reappear a mile or two away within a few hours.”
He says that the camp in North Birmingham providing legitimate accommodation for travellers, the only one in the city, is inadequate and needs improving. He also suggests that an additional camp should be established to support it.
We asked Birmingham City Council if there are any plans to address these issues and what plans they had for securing sites such as Cofton Park against future illegal encampment.
A spokeperson told us, “We are carrying out research work in an attempt to identify another site that could be used as a traveller site. The City Council is also reviewing options regarding the legal position at Tameside Drive, the current nominated transit site. The land owning departments review their portfolios with a view to securing sites to prevent access and focus upon sites that are regularly the subject of unauthorised encampments.”
Local councillors have been working hard to try and deal with problems as they arise. When travellers occupied land on Lower Beeches Road, Egghill in recent months, residents contacted Councillor Andy Cartwright. Working with Kier homes and Birmingham City Council an eviction order was served and Andy organised a meeting with the public and police which was also attended by Cllr Ian Cruise. Councillor Cruise tells us that Birmingham City Council are applying to the Environment Agency for a permit to move earth to create a barrier at that site.
When travellers moved off Egghill onto fields next to Frankley Community High School, Cllr Cruise liased with the police to have them removed. He has now written to Cllr Les Lawrence, cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families, to have land next to the school secured.
All three Longbridge councillors have liaised with the city council, police and other agencies in dealing with the Cofton Park encampment.
Councillor Ken Wood was on holiday when travellers arrived at Cofton Park but he was informed by email and he says he, “immediately contacted officers, police and cabinet members to ensure we reacted as soon as possible in a coordinated manner. As we know they vacated and left their deposits of various kinds behind for us to clear up. ”
Cllr Wood added, “[….]our officers and Police now have powers to serve notices to quit which take effect quicker and hopefully make our [Birmingham City Council] land less attractive. I have already had discussions with colleagues with regards to further prevention and I will keep residents fully informed of further developments.
Cllr Wood also made it clear that he is not happy with the council having to pick up the costs of any clear up operations. “One thing I would again emphasise is that, whilst there are undoubtedly some decent, law abiding and tax paying groups of travellers out there, I would like to see us able to seek recompense or even impound property to pay for the clearing up and any damage that is carried out. I fail to see why the residents of Birmingham should have to continually pick up the bill for the selfish acts of a group of people who contribute nothing to the area.”
We have started a collaborative record of when and where travellers are setting up encampments within the Northfield parliamentary constituency in the hope that this will help residents, campaigners and officials see the bigger picture on what is seemingly become an issue which is going around in ever increasing circles, with no long term solution in sight.