Quite rightly, my colleague Shailesh Vara MP and city councillor Chris Harper were entitled to express their anger and disgust last week at the behaviour of travellers in Stanground and the appalling mess they had left for others to clear up after they had vacated a site illegally occupied.
For Stanground, read Werrington, Parnwell, Bretton, Orton Southgate, Fletton.....Unfortunately, it’s an annual ritual and something that affects many people across Peterborough and they’re obviously fed up with being told “it’s only a minority of travellers.”
Well, so what? It scarcely matters if it’s your local business disrupted, your local school playing fields soiled by litter and fly tipping and defecating kids or your community open space occupied thoughtlessly for the umpteenth time.
People want tougher action from the city council and the police and they want to think that travellers thinking of occupying land not belonging to them will give Peterborough a wide berth.
To add insult to injury, the same travelling community ”spokespeople” then compound the offence by demanding more public money and land for additional “permanent” traveller sites.
This I believe would be a knee jerk reaction and an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, especially as I’m unconvinced that the existing permanent sites in the city are well run, managed according to the rules most of the settled community accept as a given and indeed properly policed.
May I make a few suggestions to Peterborough City Council?
Yes, by all means they need to review again the siting of temporary stopping places of a decent standard - I do accept we need them - but make their selection criteria open, transparent and based on a fair methodology and points based system arrived at after proper public consultation.
Every public traveller facility in the city is in my own constituency - Is it unreasonable that we have a more balanced allocation?
Also, given it’s not only a very local problem, start working collaboratively with other local authorities in order to try to share the burden and solve the crisis in the lack of allocated pitches.
Stop blaming the Government for poor legislation when you have the tools to do the job that needs doing, if you have the political will.
I make no bones that it’s a tough job and somebody will always be unhappy but let’s hope that by summer 2017 we have a proper strategy in place to prevent the most egregious and offensive behaviour from a minority of travellers.
My constituents’ patience is not inexhaustible.