Ashfield MP ready to take matters into his own hands again over illegal travellers site

A few years ago, whist serving as the councillor for Huthwaite, I was issued with a fixed penalty notice from Ashfield District Council for taking matters in to my own hands by preventing travellers returning to a car park on Chesterfield Road.

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 7:30 am

I hired a tractor, acquired two large concrete blocks and dropped them at the entrance to the car park.

The result was that the travellers did not return, and new security gates were fitted.

Yet again, travellers are setting up illegal sites in Ashfield and in my view the local politicians are doing very little to stop this happening.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lee Anderson, Ashfield MP. Photo: London Portrait Photoqrapher-DAV

If this continues then be in no doubt, I will be getting the tractor out again and will take direct action to keep our parks and green spaces safe from damage.

Over the weekend, an illegal site has been set up in Selston and despite the council leader reassuring residents that they would be gone by Sunday they were still there on Monday morning.

Travellers have been giving local politicians the run around for the past two years and my thoughts on such matters have been well publicised.

Our parks are priceless, and particularly during lockdown, have been a relief for many residents who have used its open space to exercise and get out of their houses.

It is unacceptable that a group of individuals smash their way into such an area, live there illegally, and then leave the mess for the taxpayer-funded local authority to clean up afterwards.I have received a considerable number of emails from residents on this issue and I would like to publicly thank Selston parish councillors for acting so promptly in dealing with this illegal challenge to our community.

It is evident that district councillors must do more, with their most recent actions to block travellers returning evidently not successful.

This is not a new problem in Ashfield, and as a result, I have been working with colleagues in Westminster since I was elected, who are experiencing similar issues in their constituencies.

Before my election, these colleagues, instigated by Mark Francois MP, asked Government ministers to adopt the ‘Irish option’.

Essentially, this is named after the change of the law in Ireland in 2002, when acts of deliberate trespass were upgraded from a civil to a criminal offence.

As a result, in Ireland, the police can challenge travellers, or indeed anyone else who deliberately trespasses on land they do not own, to move on very rapidly, or face arrest and the potential impounding of their vehicles if they refuse.The Conservative’s election manifesto declared: “We will tackle unauthorised traveller camps.

“We will give the police new powers to arrest and seize the property of trespassers who set up unauthorised encampments, in order to protect our communities.

“We will make intentional trespass a criminal offence and we will also give councils greater powers within the planning system.”

Progression with the manifesto promise has unfortunately been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic but now that Parliament is gradually returning to normal, I will be working resolutely with my colleagues to persuade the Home Office to bring forward the necessary legislation as soon as possible.

Lee Anderson is MP for Ashfield.