‘Scarred’ councillor keen to avoid uproar over new temporary traveller stopping site locations for Central Bedfordshire

Central Beds Council offices in Chicksands
Central Beds Council offices in Chicksands

The locations of two new temporary stopping sites targeting gipsies and travellers in Central Bedfordshire will need to be thoroughly debated, according to a councillor.

“I still bear the scars of the last gipsy and traveller site assessment,” said Dunstable Icknield councillor David McVicar.

“I would like to get a new bulletproof vest. We can’t just drop these sites out of the blue on to this council.

“There would be uproar if we did,” added councillor McVicar, who chairs the sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee.

READ MORE: Challenges from travellers at Billington debated as need for temporary stopping sites in Central Bedfordshire is explained
Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “Wherever we put one of these it’s going to be difficult.

“We do need one in the south and we need one in the north.

“We don’t as yet have any particular site that we want,” added councillor Dalgarno, who’s the executive member for community services.

“We are a little too early in the programme to be doing that.”

Fly-tipping issues around parts of the A5/M1 link road have been concerning Conservative Toddington councillor Tom Nicols.

“We’ve seen a colossal increase in gipsy and traveller incursions into what is mainly Highways England land.

“It seems to me this is a no man’s land in terms of the legal entity. We as an authority chase Highways England.

“They say they can’t do anything as they already put the necessary barriers up, lock the gates, put wooden fences in and dig ditches.

“But these kind people fill the ditches in, burn the fences, shatter the gates, knock down the posts, rip out the lampposts, rip out the bollards, and gain access on to the land.

“They favour taking over what are cycleways in Central Bedfordshire,” he added.

“Some are now closed forcing cyclists on to the main road.

“The police say they’re not going to do anything because, although Highways England have done as much as they could to stop this incursion, the police say it’s really down to them to physically stop them somehow.

“Will our legal mechanisms, you’re putting in place, address this?” he asked. “Or is this going to continue indefinitely?”

The council’s head of community safety, parking and programme Jeanette Keyte replied: “Unfortunately, where the land is not owned by the council, it is the responsibility of the landowner.

“Since we’ve had our unauthorised encampment officer, the relationship building he’s achieved with Highways England and other interested landowners has meant processes have got quicker, and similarly working with the police.”

Councillor Nicols said: “It doesn’t inspire me. Thousands of tonnes of waste that is dropped in the loop road at junction 12 that will continue.

“It’s happened three or four times in last two years. Once they get in we can’t stop them.

“The quantity of the tonnage of waste that’s left is out of this world.”

Councillor Dalgarno said: “If we do temporary stopping sites and give the police the tools to do the job properly they will be more proactive.

“We need to bring in these sites to help us resolve these issues.”

Conservative Linslade councillor Gordon Perham said: “What I have heard is fantastic. A lot of things are happening and it’s being taken more seriously.

“We can work together to stop the nuisance to people’s every day lives which have been made a misery.

“If we can police these temporary sites and get people to go to them, it would encourage people to accept them as neighbours.

“But, if they’re going to be terrible neighbours, nobody wants them.

“It’s the fear of petty crime, it’s the fear of dropping rubbish on your road outside your house, it’s the fear of the nuisance you get every day of these people going back and forth.

“If the temporary sites are going to work, we need this monitoring and policing.

“And that would help people say ‘they’re not so bad after all’ and we’ll have one.”

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion asked: “Is there any money which can be used this side of Christmas to bring in some agency people looking for work?”

Director of community services Marcel Coiffait replied: “We are filtering CVs from agencies to fill positions now, in the interim, and we’ll move on to permanent recruitment.

“Three or four years ago we had nobody, so this is quite a big team.

“As we suffer from trying to make ends meet constantly, actually this is a big step forward for us.”

Councillor Versallion said: “I really do hope we can get someone this side of Christmas.

“Although a lot of the good work is long-term, and that’s right, residents are understandably still frustrated by the day-to-day enforcement issues.

“Thank you for understanding that frustration and reacting quickly.”