Birmingham City Council’s Chief Executive Stephen Hughes has responded to questions put forward by Northfield MP Richard Burden.
Mr Burden wrote to Mr Hughes in August to find out what the council intended to do about the persistent issue of groups of travellers in the Northfield constituency. Mr Burden wanted to know, particularly, what was to be done about securing open spaces in the area and, in the long term, whether the council had any plans to address the lack of provision of legal encampments in and around Birmingham.
We put very similar questions to Councillor Timothy Huxtable, cabinet member for Transport, Environment and Regeneration. Cllr Huxtable forwarded Mr Hughes’ reply to Richard Burden by way of an answer to our questions.
In the letter, Mr Hughes addresses how the council goes about securing boundaries to park land and explains that the existing ‘legal encampment’ is being reviewed and that “the Housing Strategy and Partnerships team is leading on attempts to identify another suitable site . . . that could be used as a transit/traveller site.”
Richard Burden, unsatisfied with these answers, has written a reply to Mr Hughes today. In his reply, he observes that, in regard to the reviews on existing and possible future legal sites, “I had been told that these kinds of reviews have been going on for years with little apparent result.”
In the letter he also reiterates points he made in an email to Mr Hughes on August 22nd, which Mr Hughes failed to fully address in his reply. Firstly, that the authorities need to find out more about the groups of travellers within the constituency and why they are persisting in staying in the area. Secondly, to ensure that “physical barriers against unauthorised encampments in this area are as robust and effective as they can be,” and thirdly, that it is very important for the council to move forward with consultation and consideration of designated traveller sites in Birmingham.
On his final point, Mr Burden points to comments made last week on Radio WM by fair owner Robert Wilkinson. Summarising Mr Wilkinson’s suggestions, Mr Burden writes to Mr Hughes: “a round table discussion between the local authority (and perhaps neighbouring ones), the Gypsy Council and the trade organisation for travelling fair organisers . . . could play a very useful role in moving things forward. Could the City Council take the initiative in facilitating this?”
With travellers having been at one of their current sites off Boleyn Road, Frankley for around 11 days, local people are going to need to see some plans for long term solutions soon as they wonder where the travellers will set up camp next.
You can read Stephen Hughes’ and Richard Burden’s letters in full below.