Travellers group calls for more sites in Peterborough following destruction left at city playing fields
A group representing travellers' welfare has called for Peterborough City Council to provide more pitches for camps to be set up after a trail of destruction was left at playing fields in the city when a number of caravans moved off.
The pitches at Thurning Avenue playing fields were left with piles of rubbish, waste and even a burnt out car after travellers left on Sunday.
Councillors and MPs have called for more action to be taken to prevent similar incidents and unauthorised encampments.
But a spokesman for Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT), a group representing travellers, said more should be done to give travellers a place to stop.
The spokesman said: “Unauthorised encampments such as these exist due to a failure of local authorities to provide enough sites to stop on.
“If Peterborough had provided sites these encampments would not exist, and homeless Travellers would have sites to live on from where they could access adequate education, health, running water, refuse collection, and pay rent and council tax.”
Peterborough city councillor Chris Harper, who represents the Stanground south ward, and is also on the board of the nearby Stanground Community Centre, and North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara, have now called for the culprits to be punished - and action to be taken to prevent similar offences happening again.
Cllr Harper said: “I’m disgusted by the state the place has been left in.
“A certain group of travellers are giving the rest of the travellers a bad name.
“I was called on Sunday by residents who said the travellers had left. I went over and had a look, and we got a lock on the gate to secure it.
“During all the time I have been a councillor I can’t remember anything like this before. It is heartbreaking to see the field in this state. There was a woman sobbing when she saw it.
“I have contacted Shailesh Vara MP, the police and crime commissioner, and the leader of the council, asking for a meeting to review our plans. There are powers available to ensure anti-social behaviour and illegal encampments don’t happen.”
Mr Vara said: “I, like the vast majority of the law abiding public, am appalled by this.
“There are laws to deal with such situations and I will be working with Cllr Chris Harper, the council and the police to see how we can best move forward.
“Such behaviour by the ordinary citizen would be completely unacceptable. The same rules should apply to travellers.”
Chief Inspector Rob Hill from the SaferPeterborough prevention and enforcement service said: “The prevention and enforcement service was created to allow officers from the council, police and fire service to work together under one team to tackle those issues that impact on the quality of life of our residents, such as flytipping and unauthorised encampments.
“We use all the powers that are currently available to remove unauthorised encampments as quickly as possible. Once this has taken place we take measures to prevent access to deter future unlawful encampments and look to gather evidence to prosecute individuals who commit criminal offences. However, to be able to do this we must be able to identify a specific individual.
“We want to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments in the city, so we have tasked a cross-party working group with looking at whether there is a need for further emergency stopping places across the city.
“In addition, a report detailing a number of recommendations to enable us to better tackle flytipping will go before the council’s scrutiny committee in September, following which a city-wide action plan will be drawn up.
“Both these issues are caused by a small minority of residents and individuals, however the impact is felt throughout our communities.”