Conservative councillors are calling for police to use their eviction powers to move traveller groups - after one East Hunsbury encampment returned to a children's play park again.
A traveller camp of three caravans turned up at Grangewood Park for the second time this summer on Friday and were given orders to leave by Northampton Borough Council.
The group spent the weekend situated by a popular children’s play park and a lock to prevent access to the site has been broken since their return.
But Councillors in East Hunsbury are furious with the fact police have not used more aggressive ‘section 61’ powers to forcibly move the encampment along.
This summer, the same group is believed to have pitched up at various points in East Hunsbury - including Clannell Road, by the large Tesco Extra, at least three times.
Councillor Phil Larratt says the group is preventing people in East Hunsbury from using Grangewood Park and is costing the taxpayer money every time a lock is broken or a bollard is removed to get into the green spaces.
“We are spending an awful lot of money to try and protect our places from travellers to keep them out, so people can use the local amenities,” he said.
“Kids can’t use the play area because people are denied access to the park; people don’t want to go and walk their dogs down there.”
A reported assault in the Rowtree Road area has been linked to the traveller group, though this has not been confirmed.
Northamptonshire Police say traveller camps must cross an anti-social behaviour threshold before they can intervene and there is nothing they can do to stop groups simply moving to a new spot down the road.
But Councillor Larratt believes this has been crossed now.
“What are they playing at?” He said. “That is the only children’s play area between Camp Hill and the bottom part of East Hunsbury near the A45, where are the kids meant to go?”
Superintendent Emily Vernon, Head of Local Policing at Northamptonshire Police, said: “Northamptonshire Police recognises the impact that unauthorised encampments have upon the community and we continue to work with local authorities and community representatives in addressing ongoing concerns regarding unauthorised encampments.
“The responsibility and legal powers for dealing with unlawful encampments rests with a number of agencies, led by the Countywide Traveller Unit, or the landowner.
“The Police also have powers to remove unauthorised encampments but these powers only apply in certain circumstances:
· Under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act the police have powers to move unlawful encampments from the land. Specific criteria and aggravating factors need to be present for this power to be applied. The legislation does not cover other travellers who may enter that land, or other land in the area and there is no police power to prevent movement onto other land in the Northamptonshire area.
· Under Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act the police have powers to direct unlawful encampments to designated council sites. However, as there is no provision within the Northamptonshire area for these sites, this power is not available to us.
“We are doing all we can to address the very legitimate concerns of our communities with regards to unauthorised encampments, however we can only operate within the guidelines set out in law and continue to review and learn from every case on an ongoing basis.”
All crimes reported to us will be investigated thoroughly and anyone who is a victim of a crime or witnesses a crime is encouraged to report it to Northamptonshire Police on 101 or an emergency, 999. Crimes can also be reported to us online viawww.northants.police.uk/reportonline or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.