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Council allocates £80k to protect land from unauthorised traveller camps

Changes to keep travellers from setting up unauthorised camps on council land will be made ‘immediately’, according to a borough councillor.

At a full council meeting on Thursday, July 19, Cllr Jesse Grey, cabinet member for environmental services, said that £80,000 would be set aside from the capital budget to help secure council land from traveller encampments and that more money would be made available if needed.

He visited Clewer with Cllr Ed Wilson (Con, Clewer South) yesterday (Thursday) to identify vulnerable sites, with the intention of installing bollards, ditches and walls to keep travellers out.

Cllr Grey also encouraged private landowners and parish councils to take measures to stop unauthorised access.

He said: “We are concerned with this and that is why we are allocating £80,000.

“The message is the sites should be secured so that access is prevented and makes it as difficult as possible for them to get in. We encourage people to secure their land just as the Royal Borough is doing, with ditches, bollards and walls.

“Landowners and parish councils can put gates up and put chains on, and we are working with parish councils to make them more aware.”

Speaking to the Express yesterday, Cllr Grey reassured residents that the council would go to great lengths to prevent unauthorised settlements.

He said: “We will release more money if the £80,000 isn’t enough and look to the reserves.

“We don’t want the residents to suffer, we have to dig deep. We have written this so we can start immediately.”

At the meeting, Cllr Grey revealed that the cost of clearing up, repairs and officer time for unauthorised traveller camps in Whiteley and Dedworth Manor, in Dedworth, was about £5,000.

He was unable to say how many vulnerable sites there are in the borough.

Cllr David Coppinger, lead member for planning and health, said 14 sites will be made available for travellers to legally stay.

When Cllr Wisdom Da Costa (Ind, Clewer North) asked when the sites would be ready, Cllr Coppinger said: “Unfortunately I didn’t bring my magic ball, but I would like to say as soon as possible.”

Cllr Wilson asked what more could be done to keep residents aware of when travellers set up in the borough, saying they get worried when they do not have enough information.

Cllr Grey agreed to speak with Thames Valley Police and the council’s communications team to ensure more information is available on social media.

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