Travellers should abide by the law, not be "tolerated" in yet more of our city parks
Jason Kitcat, the Green Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, is reported in The Argus today talking about further “tolerated" sites for travellers and suggests opening up yet more city spaces for them, including outlying parks. In so doing he is simply encouraging Brighton’s white van caravan to keep on growing. Frankly, he may as well put down a welcome mat at each site too.
And yet, just hours earlier, Caroline Lucas, with a brazen eye on next year’s general election, openly seeks credit in The Argus for urging evictions, “utterly” condemns the associated problems and accuses her opponents of using the issue as a “political football”.
As ever, it’s clear the Greens are as confused as they are misguided on this perennial Brighton problem, a problem largely of their own “tolerant” making. A problem, as well, to which the Greens and Labour offer no viable solution. More importantly, they are also entirely out of touch with the views of the vast majority of Brighton residents.
To be blunt, people are utterly fed up with those who break the law by forcing entry to the city’s open spaces and whose "unauthorised encampments" then deny them the use of open spaces they have paid their council tax to enjoy. People are fed up with the perception that BHCC officers actively assist the travellers to occupy the land once on it. People are fed up with the deeply unhygienic mess that is left behind to be cleared up at taxpayers’ expense and, yes, they are fed up with the anti-social behavior and petty criminality that can occur in the immediate area of each encampment.
Brighton & Hove Conservatives have consistently argued that a firm and fast approach needs to be taken: a list of ‘sensitive sites’ should be drawn up – parks, sports pitches, nature reserves etc – whereby any incursions are moved on immediately by the Police using their powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act.
We have introduced this proposal twice at Council but on both occasions it has fallen because Labour and the Greens won’t support us. In fact, Sec 62a powers are preferable because travellers can then be directed to the Transit site and if they refuse, they are barred from the city for 3 months.
However, with only 9 pitches open at Horsdean this is next to useless. The suggestion that adding extra permanent pitches there will somehow solve the problem overnight will make no difference as the majority of travellers will simply choose not to use it. Nor is the site's drainage suitable. This is why we are urging the Government to reject the proposal.
So, yes, those who “travel” have to go somewhere but the fact is Brighton simply does not have the space for the ever-roving caravan to take hold in the way it has. Nor should the city have to become "Fortress Brighton". Local authorities
in other parts of the region should now be sharing the load by assisting with a number of permanent sites to help dissipate the pressure on Brighton.
It isn’t anti-traveller or racist to say enough is enough. The traveller lifestyle is theirs to choose. But, once chosen, they should abide by the same rules as the rest of us in the so-called settled community or face the immediate consequences if they don’t.
June 18th 2014