Cleckheaton councillor speaks out over traveller site security

SECURITY at sites across the district vulnerable to being occupied by travellers must be tightened up, a councillor has said.

Coun John Lawson (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) spoke out after a summer of mayhem around North Kirklees.

Last Sunday a large group of travellers again arrived at the Sands Lane playing fields in Dewsbury, with Kirklees now taking legal action to evict them.

Illegal camps have also appeared at the town's railway station, Cliffe Street car park and playing fields at Shaw Cross.

They have also hit playing fields in Liversedge, Heckmondwike and several places in Cleckheaton, including the Crown Street car park.

And the Friends of West End Park group in Cleckheaton recently formed a human chain to stop gipsies invading.

A council spokeswoman said of Sands Lane: "We already have a valid possession order in respect of the travellers there.

"A warrant was to be issued from court bailiffs on Wednesday. Arrangements will then be made for the eviction."

Coun Lawson, meanwhile, wants extra cash for tougher security to stop travellers getting onto land in the first place.

A motion from Coun Lawson and backed by fellow Lib Dems is to be heard at a Kirklees Council meeting on Wednesday.

The authority's Spen Valley Area Committee has already earmarked £15,000 for improved site security.

Coun Lawson said: “All summer we’ve had camps at sites in Cleckheaton, across Spen Valley and other parts of Kirklees.

"This has caused distress and inconvenience to many people. It's also cost the council money it can't afford.

"The motion suggests investing in tougher security to make savings on legal and clearance costs in the future.”

Coun Lawson added: "Trespass, criminal damage and fly tipping isn't acceptable from anyone regardless of lifestyle choice.

"I therefore believe it's reasonable for the council to do all it can to stop this happening, as it would do in any other situation."

Claims were made at another area committee meeting recently that Kirklees spent £150,000 last year dealing with gipsies.

Kirklees denied the figure, which includes clean up and legal bills, and insisted there was no spike in costs last year.

The spokeswoman said: "The average annual figure is about £30,000. We are not aware that it has been any higher this year so far."

There is no official traveller site in Kirklees. Plans for one at Owl Lane on the Dewsbury-Ossett border was scrapped in 2010 after an outcry.

The spokeswoman said: "The council takes action through the County Court to deal with unlawful encampments using trespasser proceedings.

"This process is the most expedient and cost-effective means to recover possession of land from trespassers.”

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