'Legal Gypsy and traveller sites needed' says campaigner as number of unauthorised encampments rise in Uttlesford
PUBLISHED: 09:53 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:08 14 June 2018
The number of unauthorised encampments in Uttlesford increased sharply last year, with campaigners saying the issue will worsen because of a ‘chronic national shortage of sites’.
A Freedom of Information Act request from the Broadcast to Essex County Council (ECC) revealed that in 2013/14 there were 10 unauthorised encampments in the district, but that figure rose to 49 in 2017/18.
So far in 2018/19, Essex County Council has recorded six unauthorised camps.
This comes as MP for Saffron Walden Kemi Badenoch spoke in the House of Commons on June 6 about an unauthorised traveller camp outside Helena Romanes School in Dunmow, which was reported on June 2.
Mrs Badenoch also mentioned fly tipping in Great Canfield in her address to parliament and asked the government to give rural crime more attention.
The co-director of Friends, Families and Travellers, a charity which works on behalf of gypsies, travellers and Roma, said that the issue of unauthorised sites in the country would get worse, unless local authorities allocated more land for authorised sites.
Sarah Mann said: “There is a chronic national shortage of gypsy and traveller sites and stopping places. For centuries, travelling communities have travelled around the UK for work, pitching at traditional stopping places on green lanes.
“In our lifetimes, these have been systematically shut down and closed off. Until local authorities take decisive action on allocating land for site provision and stopping places, the issue of unauthorised sites will only get worse. Everybody needs a place to live.”
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “We aim to ensure all residents of Essex, including travellers, are treated equally and with respect.
“The Essex Countywide Traveller Unit is responsible for managing unauthorised encampments – working in partnership with the 11 Essex district, borough, city and unitary councils, county council departments including education and public health, Essex Fire and Rescue Service and Essex Police.
“Over the past six years, the number of unauthorised encampments has been variable, and apart from an unusual number in 2017/18 is not substantially increasing.”
In 2014/15, the county council recorded 25 unauthorised encampments in Uttlesford, with 13 in 2015/16 and 18 in 2016/17.