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.