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Local councillor to arrange public meeting on traveller encampments

Cllr James Lancaster, the local Labour councillor for Tattenhoe ward, is arranging a public meeting to be held in September after local residents raised concerns over Traveller encampments in the area.

Milton Keynes City Council has recently moved on encampments from Howe Park Wood and Old Bletchley, with residents raising concerns about how quickly the camps are moved on, groups returning to sites soon after being evicted and allegations of anti-social behaviour from some of the site occupants.

On Thursday 24 August Cllr Lancaster met with the Cabinet Member responsible for Community Safety, alongside senior officers of the city council.

Cllr Lancaster raised concerns around the speed encampments can be moved on, what actions can taken to prevent future problems and how the council works with Thames Valley Police. It was agreed that the city council would work with partners such as TVP to host a public meeting in the area so that residents could raise concerns and be given factual information on what steps the council is taking with TVP to address any concerns.

James has asked that if any resident witnesses criminal activity or anti-social behaviour they should report it directly to TVP via the 101 service.

He also remined residents not to purchase goods or services from door-to-door salespeople and to report any traders offering such services to the council’s Trading Standards team.

Cllr James Lancaster, Labour councillor for Tattenhoe ward said:

“I have been working on the issue of unauthorised Traveller encampments for many years. The council has improved how problem encampments are dealt with and has a good working relationship with Thames Valley Police on the issue. However, residents do still have several concerns about what is happening.

I therefore met with senior Milton Keynes City Council officials last week and we agreed that the best way forward was to hold a public meeting on the matter so residents can be fully aware of what action is being taken, and so I can help residents know that their concerns are being addressed.”

Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes City Council said:

“The council takes the issue of unauthorised encampments very seriously and we have several actions taking place to address unauthorised encampments when they happen, and to try and prevent issues continuing to happen.

I want to reassure residents that we can, and do, use all the powers available to us as a local authority, and with our partners at Thames Valley Police, to deal with encampments as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the problem is complex. The majority of the emails I get on the subject do understand that. We are not dealing with a single homogonous community. Often the council is working with individual families or social groups who all act and behave in different ways. Our Traveller Unit has a good relationship with most of the local traveller community and there are often very few problems.

However, issues can occur when new groups come to MK or return after some time. Depending on circumstances such land ownership, court availability, court rulings and how individuals in a camp respond to proceedings, there can be apparent delays. This can mean residents become concerned, so I do want to reassure people that the council does take swift action and we have a national reputation as being very proactive on this subject.”

Cllr Lancaster concluded:

“I think it right that there is a public meeting to address concerns and that we work to ensure residents are given the full picture of what is happening. I will be arranging this as soon as possible and I will circulate details to local residents.

In the meantime, if people witness criminal acts or anti-social behaviour they should report them to the police with any evidence they may have. I’d also remind people not to buy or give money to people who trade door to door.

I’m committed to working with MKCC, TVP and the residents to help deal with the problem. It is complex but by working together we can get things done. There is a danger that people will use this issue to raise their own profile rather than really address the problems. I will deal in facts and keep things moving in the right direction.”

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