I walked by our local unofficial travellers’ site in Stoke Gifford just yesterday. Situated on what is effectively our nature reserve, Forty Acres, the travellers have set up camp. Today even more of them turned up.
I did not venture into the very heart of where the travellers have rocked up, but I could smell it before I saw it. The stench of excrement was overwhelming and it was human excrement, unless of course they have been wiping the arses of the dogs and now horses with toilet paper.
Something like twenty vans are present, maybe more, and parts of Forty Acres are becoming out of bounds to local people. Dog walkers, understandably, are walking their dogs elsewhere, huge 4X4s are rolling in and out of the site at all hours, along with transit vans and other vehicles relating to their businesses. Why does it take so long to oust these people and why are they allowed to leave where they stay in a mess, with local people having to pick up the tab?
I am not a NIMBY: I don’t want these people living in my back yard or yours. They seem to enjoy the travellers’ lifestyle but don’t want to pay for it like the rest of us pay for our services. I doubt very much whether the businesses they operate are known to HMRC, so far as I can tell they don’t make any kind of payment for staying on our land. Yet somehow, they manage to buy brand new cars and other vehicles. And when the local council wants them out, they can drag things out for as long as they like. Is this fair?
When travellers move in, why can’t we have laws whereby they are immediately booted off? All that’s happened in the Gifford is that they have been asked to leave. “We continue to liaise with the police and Stoke Gifford Parish Council in order to resolve the situation as quickly as possible, in line with our established procedures,” said a council suit. “Our established procedures?” This means leaving the bottom gate permanently open so the travellers can move in and out to their heart’s content, unstaffed, no police, no council officials.
How about impounding their vehicles as a first step? Or, if they move away leaving a mess, then confiscate their assets to pay for it? Our council is having terrible trouble providing adequate care for vulnerable people. Should we really be diverting vital funds to deal the consequences of a bunch of travellers?
Inept, complacent, out of touch with the local community, that’s South Glos Council and the local Parish Council. I do not know anyone around here who isn’t livid at both the illegal occupation and the lumpen reaction of officials. And if the council say it’s national politicians who are to blame, then what the hell is Jack “Shagger” Lopresti up to, our local MP who has been AWOL every since he was first elected?