Injunction against traveller encampments

Injunction against traveller encampments

Sutton has had to deal with a number of traveller incursions in our parks in recent months, and most recently they have moved back into the old Evans Auto site as they did earlier this year.

As per my previous updates on this issue, which can be read here and here, as well as pressing for swift action against each incursion as they happened, I have been joining local Conservative councillors in calling for a Borough-wide injunction against these types of incursions, similar to the one recently sought by Croydon Council.

I am pleased that today the Council has confirmed they have listened to our calls and done just that.

The Council has been granted a temporary three month injunction forbidding persons unknown occupying council owned land and or depositing waste on council owned land. They will return to the High Court in November to seek a full three year injunction.

This unfortunately does not help the incursion at the old Evans Auto site, which is privately owned by Aldi. I have been in conversations with Aldi along with local Conservative councillors to ask for updates on what they are doing to get them out and secure the site after they have been evicted.

The government recently concluded a consultation on changes to the law on travellers and I have been campaigning with my colleagues in Parliament for stricter rules. We are calling for the ‘Irish option’ to be applied in the UK, meaning acts of deliberate trespass become a criminal offence (instead of Civil as they are currently) and unauthorised encampments can be removed much more quickly. I recently signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the consultation on travellers calling for more extensive powers for Councils to deal with this problem. You can read the letter here.

I hope the Council will now pursue those responsible for the recent spate of traveller incursions for the fly-tipping and waste they left behind to foot the bill for the cost of clearing it up.

Whilst this injunction is welcome and means any future incursions can be dealt with quickly, I remain disappointed that the Council and police did not seek to use section 61 powers to evict travellers at any of the recent traveller incursions on our parks. I am also still concerned at how slow the Council has been in responding to calls to better secure our parks after each incursion, and in many cases this has still not happened. This gave the image of Lib Dem-run Sutton Council as a soft touch on traveller incursions. At least this injunction should mean they can act faster in future.

Finally, I will continue to fight any plans for put a permanent traveller site near Sutton Cemetery. I am very disturbed that the Council has not ruled out this as a potential site when it comes to putting together their Gypsy and Traveller Plan by 2023.

Cheam Park Traveller Incursion

Cheam Park Traveller Incursion

As you may be aware, travellers moved into Cheam Park late last night via Netley Close.

I am incredibly frustrated that this has happened yet again in Sutton in such a short space of time. We do not yet know if this is the same people that were on Fairlands Park.

I arrived soon after they arrived, to see what happened and see what could be done. The police arrived shortly afterwards.  I spent a couple of hours whilst the police did their checks and talked through the process with them and residents who had gathered.

It is unclear as of yet whether or not the bollard behind the gate through which they gained access was actually locked at all. The local councillors in Cheam had raised the problem of gates not being locked several weeks ago so the council and their contractor ID Verde have serious questions to answer.

As we have seen elsewhere in Sutton, travellers have little regard for locks, so it may well have made little difference. However, after the large number of incursions we’ve had in Sutton recently, I joined Conservative councillors in calling for all our parks to be properly secured to ensure no one could gain access having left Fairlands Park.

This adds to my concerns that I raised in my recent update on travellers that Sutton was becoming a soft touch on travellers and therefore an easy target:

I joined local councillors for Cheam, Eric Allen, Elliot Colburn and Holly Ramsey who spoke to the Council last night to push for immediate action. I understand their legal team has been notified.

Recent incursions have taken about a week to move on, but I want to see this dealt with a lot faster. The travellers told the police last night that they were due to head to Brighton on Wednesday but we cannot accept this as read and so the process needs to be pushed through as soon as possible regardless.

Your local councillors have been pushing the councils to begin the process immediately today, by doing the necessary checks to allow them to begin eviction proceedings and issuing a court summons the same day. The Council have agreed to start work on this today, and I will be asking for regular updates along with the local councillors.

We have called for the installation of further security to prevent more travellers arriving, which means the process would have to start all over again. We have also asked that the police set up CCTV and regular patrols as they did at Fairlands. CCTV may be difficult because of where they are pitched at the back of the park but the police have said they will be undertaking regular patrols.

In the meantime, I would again advise residents to keep their distance and keep themselves safe. There were concerns at Fairlands Park about criminal, even violent behaviour that was reported to me, and that the police was letting it happen. However, the police state that they had little actually reported to them and they insist no-one is above the law. So I would urge everyone to properly report criminal activity they see, such as theft or assault, to the police to investigate. They will be given a Crime Reference Number and the police will look into as any other crime. I can help take up complaints with the police if it appears they have not investigated properly, but I need residents to properly report these crime first. I know that some residents had been waiting on hold having dialled 101. If it is an emergency and a crime is taking place, then call 999. If not, please do persist with 101 or speak to your local neighbourhood team. Even if there is no quick investigation, every incident builds up a picture which helps to get a stronger, wider injunction.

However, it is clear to me that we need a longer term strategy to deal with traveller incursions in Sutton. The Council failed to adequately secure our parks after the spout of recent incursions, and I believe the lead councillor needs to take direct responsibility as he was asked personally, on many occasions, to ensure that this happened.

As I said in my recent article (link above), I am supporting calls from Conservative councillors for a Borough-wide injunctions to be taken out against incursions in our open spaces, similar to those used by the London Borough of Croydon, to allow the Council to evict trespassers immediately. This will take longer to obtain than a one-off eviction, so I have asked the Council to seek both at the same time, so that they can be out of Cheam Park, whilst we try to keep them off of our open spaces for good.

In addition, I believe the law is far too vague and takes too long to evict travellers from illegal incursions. Before this round of incursions started, I had already joined colleagues in Parliament in writing to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government last month to support tougher laws, feeding into the government’s consultation on stricter laws on traveller incursions. This consultation is now closed and the responses are being considered, so I hope that this will result in the action we all want to see:

Finally, I continue to oppose any new permanent traveller site being put near Sutton Cemetery when the Council puts together their Gypsy and Traveller Site Plan before 2023, which I am concerned they have refused to rule out so far.

I will continue to update residents as I hear more about the progress in evicting the travellers from Cheam Park.

If you have any further questions, please let me know.

Travellers in Sutton

Travellers in Sutton

I have been very concerned to hear about the various reports of traveller incursions across Sutton over the past few weeks. They have been to many locations, leaving behind rubbish and waste, as well as reports of violent behaviour and criminal activity. The terrible current situation in Fairlands Park shows this in all its stark reality.

First of foremost, my advice is to stay away from areas that travellers have set up in and report any violent or criminal activity to the police.

My concern is that Sutton seems to have become prone to traveller incursions recently. I appreciate that the Council and the Police have been made aware immediately after an incursion has been made, including this one, but I have been disturbed by several reports I have heard regarding some of the incursions.

One of the biggest concerns is regarding fly-tipping. There is plenty of evidence, by way of photos and videos, of travellers dumping large amounts of rubbish when they access our parks. The Council seem reluctant to begin any proceedings against the travellers in order to collect fines, which would help save the taxpayer the bill to clear up the mess they leave behind.

I have also heard that the parks police have not been stopping further travellers from entering and the Council has not been securing the sites to prevent further break-ins.

That is why I am joining with the leader of the Conservative group on Sutton Council, Councillor Tim Crowley, for Sutton to follow Croydon’s example in taking a blanket injunction out against any unknown persons occupying public land and depositing waste in Sutton. This should allow the Council and the Police to act much faster in removing travellers from our parks and open spaces. I understand this was looked at some years ago for Sutton and Croydon to apply together along with other Boroughs in order to build up a bigger portfolio of evidence, but Croydon withdrew at the time. I am disappointed that Croydon have now done this independently, but I still think Sutton should explore this as an option.

I am also joining fellow Conservative MPs in calling for tougher laws on traveller incursions in the UK. I recently signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the consultation on travellers calling for more extensive powers for Councils to deal with this problem. You can read the letter here.

I am concerned that Sutton Council, including the parks police, is becoming a soft touch when it comes to travellers. Taxpayers should not have to endure long periods of time without access to their local parks and open spaces, having to suffer antisocial behaviour and then footing the bill for rubbish dumped unlawfully when it is well known who the perpetrators are. The same people are responsible for most of the incursions across the borough in recent weeks. There are examples, such as this one from Richmond, of travellers being successfully removed very quickly indeed.
I will be joining Councillor Tim Crowley to push for tougher and quicker action, and ensuring that all illegal incursions are moved on as a matter of priority. We need a wider holistic approach to tackling illegal traveller squats in Sutton, including better security of public land, rather than just reacting to each incursion as they happen and travellers then moving onto a new site.

Finally, I will continue to fight any plans for put a permanent traveller site near Sutton Cemetery. I am very disturbed that the Council has not ruled out this as a potential site when it comes to putting together their Gypsy and Traveller Plan by 2023.

Launch of the Coalition for Global Prosperity

Launch of the Coalition for Global Prosperity

As part of my work on the International Development Select Committee, I was delighted to attend the launch of the Coalition for Global Prosperity (CPG).

The Coalition for Global Prosperity brings together political, military, business and faith leaders who believe that an effective development budget, alongside an active diplomatic and defence strategy, keeps Britain at the forefront of saving lives, alleviating poverty and bringing freedom, security and prosperity to those who need it most.

I enjoyed hearing more about the Coalition’s work and listening to addresses from Rt Hon David Cameron, UK Prime Minister 2010-2016, Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development, Major General James Cowan, CEO of the HALO Trust and former major general, Becky Platt, NHS nurse and member of the UK Emergency Medical Team, Simon Bishop, Chair of the Coalition for Global Prosperity and Theo Clarke, Chief Executive of the Coalition for Global Prosperity.

I believe Britain is a force for good in the world, and UK Aid is a big part of that. Like the CPG, I believe UK Aid makes Britain, and indeed the wider world, safer, healthier and better off.

Find out more about their work here.

Supporting Carers Week 2018

Supporting Carers Week 2018

I attended a Carers Week speed networking event with carers and charities in Westminster, pledging my support to unpaid carers locally.

The event was in support of Carers Week, to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the 6.5 million people across the UK who currently provide care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health problem or who needs extra help as they grow older.

It matched up MPs and carers to share experiences of caring and the support they need to take care of their own mental and physical health and well-being.

Eight national charities have come together to call for urgent support for unpaid carers to be Healthy and Connected as new research released at the start of Carers Week reveals the toll that caring can take on many carers’ own health and wellbeing.

I was delighted to be able to show my support for the carers in my constituency at the Carers Week event and I pledge to support the 8,801 carers in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park through my work in Parliament. Unpaid carers make a huge contribution to our society, providing vital and often hidden support to friends and family members, and it is right that we value them and ensure they have the right support at the right time. I look forward to working with the Carers Week charities, and, with unpaid carers, locally, to make a difference to their lives.

Heléna Herklots CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK, on behalf of Carers Week, said: “Without the unpaid care provided every year by family and friends, our health and care services would collapse. Yet, caring for a loved one too often means carers neglect their own mental and physical health.Finding the time and space to be healthy, get enough sleep and maintain relationships with others are all huge challenges identified by carers. By working together during Carers Week we have a huge opportunity to make our communities more Carer Friendly and make a difference to those who contribute so much.”

Carers Week 2018 is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, MS Society and Which? Elderly Care and kindly supported by Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition.

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