Update (3) Unauthorised Traveller Encampment - Bentley Heath and Dorridge

Following regular correspondence with local ward councillors, senior members of Solihull MBC and the local police I am pleased to be able to advise local residents that after a successful operation by Solihull police to serve a Section 61 notice on the encampment, both unauthorised campsites have been cleared and the travellers have been escorted from Solihull Borough.

Having served in Parliament for 20 years, I have witnessed first-hand the impact that some travellers have had on our community, such as in 2014 when land in Chadwick End was illegally occupied and property was significantly damaged or destroyed. Nevertheless, in recent days I’ve met with a number of local residents who have been affected by the incursion and have visited both sites myself to gain a better understanding of their experience.

The presence of these unauthorised sites creates challenges for any community. However before any action can be taken by the authorities they are required by law to demonstrate that certain criteria have been met. These include ensuring that vulnerable members of the traveller community, such as very young children, are receiving appropriate care and home schooling within their own community before the courts will award a judge’s order to vacate.

In this instance checks were carried out by Solihull Council almost immediately and an application was made to the court to secure an eviction order. However as reports of criminal activity and antisocial behaviour were received by the police, either via the 101/999 emergency numbers or through social media, the authorities were able to use Section 61 powers as set out in the Criminal Justice Act and Public Order Act. This ensured that despite the bank holiday weekend the police could organise for the travellers to be moved on at a faster pace.

As we look to the future it is important that we consider ways to deter and prevent future incursions to ensure the safety and well-being of local residents. It is for that reason I am pleased to be able to tell you that following a full and extensive review by the Chief Executive of Solihull Council over the next fortnight, Council officials will consult with residents to ensure that the community can have its say as to what measures residents would like to see implemented to better protect local communities and deter against future unauthorised and illegal encampments. During this period I understand that the council will look to hold public meetings and will carry out door-to-door enquiries in affected communities.

In the interim time I understand that environmental services will be visiting the parks to remove any waste that has been left behind. With this regard the council have advised that local residents stay keep off sites for the next 24 hours to allow them to clean up the parks in good time. Furthermore, I have been advised by the police if anyone has any further information or has witnessed a crime that involves this particular group of individuals to contact West Midlands police on 101.