A West Midlands politician is urging councils to follow Sandwell’s lead and open transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers in a bid to crack down on costly unauthorised camps.
James Carver, a UKIP MEP for the region, said the use of a spare piece of land within each local authority could save hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Sandwell has just opened the first transit site in the West Midlands in Smethwick, sparking early interest from Dudley and Wolverhampton.
The site has space for 15-20 caravans and facilities including a toilet block, running water and drinking water. Gypsies will be directed to the site when passing through the borough rather than pitching up on parks and playing fields.
They will be charged a refundable deposit and weekly rent in advance and if they break the agreement, enforcement action will be taken.
Mr Carver, who is the grandson of a Romany Gypsy, said: “Travellers need somewhere to stop and most don’t want to cause a nuisance, so to have sites dotted throughout the region – and country – would be an ideal solution.
“Families who do cause trouble and behave in an anti-social manner should feel the full force of the law – they are not welcome – and they intimidate other travellers.”
Mr Carver said another solution to unauthorised encampments was negotiated stopping, a system successfully adopted in Leeds, which has led to a significant reduction in the cost of clearing sites and legal enforcement.
He said: “This is proving a really workable solution. Travelling families are able to negotiate to stay, for limited periods of time, on ground where it isn’t causing inconvenience.
“They make an agreement with the council about acceptable behaviour, use of waste disposal, and when they will leave.
“I really hope other councils will look seriously at the pioneering schemes in places like Sandwell and Leeds which are saving police and local authorities time and money and resulting in improved community cohesion.”