The difficulties in dealing with traveller encampments have been highlighted in a five-day discussion on how best to ticket travellers’ vans – despite the fact they would probably never be paid.
A chain of emails, sent over the course of five days in May this year, has just been published following a Freedom of Information request.
It was sparked by a tweet on May 23 complaining about travellers driving over Preston Park, where an unauthorised encampment had set up.
Hey @jasonkitcat I appreciate the delicate nature of dealing with travellers but driving across Preston Park is dangerous.
— Another Runner (@AnotherRunHQ) May 23, 2014
It then turns to the issue of ticketing vehicles parked on the grass – complicated by a recent alleged assault on a member of the public who had challenged them, not to mention problems wardens had in the past.
Eventually, on May 27, it was agreed the police would accompany parking wardens (civil enforcement officers or CEOs) once a day – by which time 25 emails had been sent to 21 different people working for Brighton and Hove City Council, parking enforcement contractors NSL and Sussex Police – with references to further conversations too.
Giles Gailer, who sent the original tweet, was fascinated to read the correspondence, as he says he didn’t receive a direct response to his tweet.
He said: “I live near by and walk my dogs on the park several times a day, and know from personal and anecdotal experience how aggressive the travellers can be and how passive the council and police can be.
“I would want the council to be more proactive and treat the travellers the same as they treat other users of the Park. No one should be afraid of doing their job or walking across the park.
A council spokesman said: “We respond to each encampment on a case by case basis, with NSL working alongside the Traveller Liaison team and the police, as appropriate.
“We’ve also just agreed a new process (last week) where NSL will now attend the initial site assessment alongside the police and Traveller Liaison so we can determine what enforcement is possible and even give NSL the opportunity to enforce right from the outset where they can.”
The chain of correspondence was revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information request made on the WhatDoTheyKnow website and published on the council’s website here.
Council leader Jason Kitcat starts by emailing officers asking if anything can be done about antisocial driving in the park.
Councillor Pete West replies, also raising the issue of parking. He says: “This week there was an incident reported of a park user smashed over the head with a bottle by someone they challenged for parking on the grass in the park – Police investigating.
“If travellers are driving around the park I truly fear for the integrity of the parking scheme and for public safety. Please can we press the Police to s61 [move them on for antisocial behaviour.”
An officer then queries reports that parking wardens have been told by the council not to issue tickets this time.
This is eventually passed to the contractors responsible for issuing tickets, NSL, who say they will not approach the encampment without police escort – but the police initially say that they will only attend if and when an incident occurs, and will not act as the parking wardens’ “bouncers”.
Eventually, the police agree to act as escort, and enforcement is set to begin once a day.