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COLUMN: Travellers must be told: ‘Pay to stay’
WE’RE told we live in a society that’s under greater everyday surveillance than many others around the world.
If you speed in your car, lose your temper on the street or behave badly in a shopping mall the chances are your actions will be caught on camera.
Choose to park your car somewhere you shouldn’t and it is more than likely that you will either get a ticket from a traffic warden or, far worse, find yourself facing an extortionate demand from a private clamper.
With all this monitoring taking place it does seem very strange that so-called travellers are able to just turn up and settle themselves en masse in built-up areas of East Lancashire almost at will.
Moving around in groups of up to 30 caravans often accompanied by some expensive, top-of-the-range cars they have occupied children’s recreation areas, parks and even a community centre car park during the last few weeks alone.
They clearly know exactly how to operate and invariably move on a Friday knowing that local councils will be incapable of even launching cumbersome legal procedures until after the weekend and that police are often powerless to act.
If all this sounds terribly illiberal it needs to be made clear that the folk involved are not what I would term gypsies.
It’s important that there should still be a way for people from true traveller backgrounds to live their lives as they wish.
But I’m not talking, for example, about the people you will find quietly camped in laybys on the country lanes each year as the meander through North Yorkshire and Lancashire heading for the annual gathering that is Appleby Horse Fair.
These traditional travellers are a far cry from the characters who insist on filling up patches of open space in heavily built-up areas and invariably leave them in a far dirtier condition than they were before they arrived.
There’s no logical reason why people moving from town to town for business reasons shouldn’t have accommodation – but equally there’s no reason why they shouldn’t pay for somewhere to stay.
Politicians have a lot to answer for in not having grasped the nettle and set up sites for itinerants over the years.
Cost cannot be held up as an excuse.
The annual bills for police and council workers’ time in dealing with the present situation must be far more than setting up sites where people would have to stay.