July 22, 2022 4.00 pm

Call for action as travellers take on same Gainsborough car park twice in a week

Travellers left the site but more appeared days later

Local councillors want more to be done to tackle unauthorised encampments, particularly in Gainsborough town centre, after travellers settled in a car park twice in the space of a week.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Trevor Young said the appearance of travellers on the same car park twice in a few days “shows the weakness” of local authorities in tackling the issue.

Travellers recently into the Bridge Street Car Park on Wednesday, July 20. The same car park was also occupied from Thursday, July 14-Saturday, July 16.

“They have got a certain process they have to follow – engagements with the travellers, serving the notice etc.

“Last week, the council were assured it was a short stay and the travellers would be moving on, which they did,” said Councillor Young

“However, they can quite easily just pop into another car park and the process starts again which isn’t satisfactory.”

His main concern was the detrimental impact on local businesses from the town centre car park being taken up.

He said that town centre businesses and car parks were already suffering post-Covid, in the heatwave etc.

He also planned to put a motion to WLDC calling for more barriers for local car parks.

The council and police are monitoring the situation. | Image: Paul Walker

Paul Walker, a local resident also called for more to be done to tackle the issue. He said it had happened time and again and felt like authorities were not doing enough.

“It’s like whack-a-mole. They pop up somewhere, [the authorities] sort it and then they pop up somewhere else,” he said.

“They turn up, leave all their rubbish, and deprive people of parking and leave all the clean up costs.”

There have been moves to block off sites such as West Lindsey District Council’s leisure centre already, but Mr Walker said the encampments just appeared elsewhere.

He pointed to new legislation brought in by Priti Patel in June which aimed to tackle unauthorised encampments.

He also invited Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones to see the issue in person.

WLDC is set to look at increasing security at its car parks. | Image: Paul Walker

Both Lincolnshire Police and West Lindsey District Council said they were aware of the travellers.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Police and council officers visited the car park to immediately engage with the travellers on both occasions to understand their intentions.

“The council is using its powers in a proportionate manner with the police to progress the relevant legal action to remove the travellers should they not to choose to vacate voluntarily over the next couple of days.

“However, they have indicated that is their intention.”

They said the situation would continue to be monitored and if the travellers were still on the car park on Monday, the council would move forward with legal proceedings.

At a recent meeting, WLDC’s Prosperous Communities Committee agreed to explore installing additional security in council-owned car parks similar to those at the authority’s leisure centre in Gainsborough.

Inspector Gary Brockie from Lincolnshire Police’s West Lindsey Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “Some encampments exist for a matter of days without notice, while others can be longer and more impactful.

“Contrary to popular belief, the police cannot ‘move on’ travellers.

“It is not a criminal offence, and the landowners can make use of certain laws to move groups on who are there without permission.

“Under the new legislation, the process calls for private land owners to use the powers open to them when evicting encampments.”

He said people on the encampment had been engaging with authorities and civil powers had already been made use of to serve a notice to vacate.

He added: “The new legislation gives police increased powers, and these powers will be used where significant damage, disruption or disorder is evidenced.

“The word ‘significant’ is central to the powers available, meaning we would need to use our existing threat and risk assessments to evaluate a situation in order to act under the new powers.”

He said NPCC guidance gave “clear direction” existing processes were best practice, and took into account the Equality Act and Human Rights Act.

New enforcement powers have been brought in for “significant” circumstances. | Image: Paul Walker

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said in a statement that he was “always happy to meet with people from the community to discuss issues that are important to them”.

“I lobbied for stronger laws cracking down on anti-social people causing misery by setting up illegal camps and fully support the introduction of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

“However a decision about how to apply the new laws is an operational matter for the Chief Constable.

“Whether and where to provide appropriate transit sites and the protection of public land from unauthorised encampments has to be led by the local authority in question.”