Ashfield councillors agree to work together on travellers

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COUNCILLORS have agreed to work together to prevent travellers illegally occupying sites in Ashfield.

Underwood councillor Robert Sears-Piccavey demanded that Ashfield District Council takes a more ‘robust and proactive’ approach to travellers at a full council meeting on Thursday evening.

It comes after travellers set up camp on land at the junction of the A608 and Felley Mill Lane South last month.

More than 1,300 people have signed a petition against the camp and two public meetings were held.

Coun Sears-Piccavey told the meet that the people of Underwood did not feel protected.

He said: “Residents are talking about withholding their council tax until we solve this situation. That is something we cannot afford to let escalate.”

His views were echoed by Kirkby councillor Rachel Madden who said that the council should take action before, rather than after, travellers have moved onto a site.

She said: “I have had several instances of travellers appearing and they were there for weeks. How much did that cost? In my ward alone, how much did that cost this authority? Surely it would be better to have a robust and proactive approach.”

Other members agreed that something needed to be done but said the authority had to work within the limits of the law.

Instead, councillors said that they should work together to lobby the Government on the rules surrounding traveller camps.

Selston councillor Gail Turner said: “As council members we really need to work together; we need a change in the law so together we need to lobby MP Kenneth Clarke at the Ministry of Justice.”

And she added: “It is wrong for travellers to move onto precious greenbelt as they have in Underwood.

“The rules are the rules but it appears that some rules are more equal for others.

“The planning system is slow, reactive and cumbersome.”

And Council Leader John Knight said: “This is not about being robust and proactive at a district level.

“It is not Ashfield District Council, it is not the travellers - it is the law that needs changing.”

The issue will be examined by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.