Let us stop Wandsworth traveller camps without court orders, urge councillors

Plans to seek controversial legal powers to prevent unauthorised traveller camps were approved by Wandsworth councillors last Thursday.

The council wants a borough-wide preventative injunction to allow unauthorised occupations to be brought to an end without a magistrates’ court order.

Preventive injunctions are in place in several other boroughs, although traveller groups have criticised their use for being disproportionately discriminatory towards travellers.

Parks and open spaces spokesman Councillor Steffi Sutters said: “The law applies to everyone.

“These green spaces are there for the whole community to enjoy and this is not possible if people have occupied parts of that land and essentially restricted it for their own unauthorised use.”

Councillors accused traveller camps of creating anti-social disturbances, littering, and large clean-up bills for taxpayers.

The last major incursion, on Tooting Common in 2013, left 134 cubic metres of waste and cost £25,000 to clean up.

Wandsworth Labour Deputy Leader Councillor Candida Jones called on the council to adopt a policy known as negotiated stopping which has seen success in other parts of the UK.

Councillor Jones said: “We believe we should negotiate with the families to find places they can stop and ways of working together that are mutually respectful.”

Members of Wandsworth’s traveller community disputed the negative portrayal of travellers.

A spokesperson said:“We’re slowly being driven away, pushed to the edges, our heritage and culture is being eroded.

“We have as much respect for places as the rest of society. We’re no different. And we shouldn’t be treated any differently.”

Campaign group London Gypsies and Travellers said it was concerned about the council’s approach in relation to the scale of unauthorised encampments in Wandsworth.

In the past 24 months there have been only five unauthorised traveller camps in the borough.

The motion is due to be debated at the full council meeting at Wandsworth Town Hall – pictured above – next Wednesday.


Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

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