'Open season on ethnic minorities': Government accused over illegal traveller site crackdown

 

Politicians have been accused of sparking an “open season on ethnic minorities” after the Government issued new guidelines to tackle illegal traveller sites.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was accused of “grandstanding” and reinforcing “negative stereotypes” about travellers and gypsies after saying councils must act more quickly to shut down unauthorised encampments.

New guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government outlines the legal powers councils and landowners have to remove unauthorised traveller sites, protest camps and squatters from both public and private land, as well as tackling the mess caused by the sites.

Joseph Jones, chairman of the Gypsy Council, likened Pickles' actions to the Home Office's controversial clampdown on illegal immigrants in London using a van telling them to go home, and the furore over Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom's “bongo bongo land” comments about foreign aid spending.

“It's creating tension, it's a negative thing to do,” he told Sky News.

“At the moment it seems like a theme. Recently we have had the Go Home campaign, then we have the bongo bongo thing going on.

“It seems like open season on ethnic minorities.”

Mr Jones dismissed as “nothing new” the summary of powers sent directly to local council leaders, which the Government hopes will give local residents a stronger voice in challenging their local authority to take action.

Mr Pickles has revoked Labour's Equality and Diversity in Planning guidance, which he said told councils not to take enforcement action against unauthorised travellers, and suggested planning rules should be applied differently to individuals depending on their background.

Powers that can be used include temporary stop notices to stop and remove unauthorised caravans, pre-emptive injunctions that protect vulnerable land in advance from unauthorised encampments and possession orders to remove trespassers from land.

The DCLG said the move is aimed at preventing another incident like Dale Farm, where a long-running legal battle was fought before bailiffs moved in to evict travellers from the site in Essex.

At the peak of the operation, 308 officers were involved, including those brought in from the Metropolitan Police, Thames Valley, Avon and Somerset, Kent, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire under mutual aid arrangements.

The clearance, which resulted in violent clashes, followed a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the six-acre site.

The total cost of the clearance was £7 million, with Basildon Council spending £ 4.8 million.

Mr Jones said he did not support illegal sites and called for more legal sites to be created for travellers.

He added: “Local authorities already know how to manage unauthorised encampments, they don't need the Government to tell them how to do it.

“This latest statement Mr Pickles has put out doesn't have anything new in it. It doesn't have any new powers or anything like that.

“It just seems to me like a bit of grandstanding.”

Mr Pickles denied the powers were an attack on the traveller community and said £60 million was being made available to local authorities for new legal sites.

He told ITV's Daybreak: “We inherited a situation where the number of illegal sites had gone up four-fold and what we expect them to do is obey the law like you and I do.

“It does not give people the right to come on to a green belt...and to trash it.

“We're treating travellers' families exactly the same way as we're treating the rest of population.

“The idea that is somehow an attack on the traveller community is not true.

“This is a very good deal for travellers."

PA

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star