Dunstable's MP calls for big changes to traveller policy
South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous held his third debate on traveller policies in the House of Commons after listening to the concerns of Dunstable and Bedfordshire residents.
On Monday, September 10, a dozen other MPs, from different parties, supported calls for a complete overhaul of traveller policy and for several specific changes in the law called for by both Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedfordshire Police.
Andrew said that the policy of segregation and separation of travellers was making the situation worse for everyone and called for adoption of the Irish policy of making the occupation of land without permission a criminal offence.
During the debate, Andrew said: “My main concern is with current planning policy, which allows many Traveller pitches in some areas when others have none at all. Multiple Traveller sites lead to many unauthorised encampments.
“In 2017, there were 116 unauthorised encampments in Central Bedfordshire, and clear-up costs in the area were around £350,000. Over £200,000 of that was spent by Highways England.”
Additionally, Andrew called for those responsible for the clear up costs of unauthorised encampments to be made to pay for them and for proper land registry records to be maintained on traveller sites so enforcement could happen through both the planning system and by the Environment Agency and public health authorities.
Speaking afterwards, Andrew said: “The Minister who responded, said: ‘I fervently hope that, through my actions and the actions of the Department over the months to come, we can obviate the need for a fourth such debate.’ Seeing will be believing.”