Tue, 03 Jul 2018
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has called for greater defences to protect Thatcham from travellers.
Caravans arrived at Bradley-Moore Square last month month and nearby residents said they felt intimidated by the group.
Travellers also pitched up at Dunstan Green, removing wooden posts installed to prevent caravans accessing the site.
Mr Benyon has signed a letter to the secretary of state to call for a tougher stance on illegal encampments.
The MP said: “West Berkshire has been hit by a particularly unpleasant lot of travellers this year.
“Many of the problems have happened outside my constituency, like in Theale, but Thatcham and Newbury have been hard hit and it’s totally not acceptable.
“Of course there are some who don’t engage in these activities, but there was an enormous amount of aggressive behaviour and crime and it’s just unacceptable.
“The police were saying they were not getting that many crime reports, whereas councillors and I were getting a whole lot.”
Mr Benyon said he signed the letter to ask that the Government adopt ‘the Irish option’, which would make travellers trespassing a criminal offence.
Residents in Theale dug a ditch to prevent “intimidating” groups from returning following what they dubbed ineffective and slow action from the council and police.
Mr Benyon said that the trench shouldn’t have been necessary.
“West Berkshire is one of the best for getting on with the process of evicting encampments, but we do need to make it a criminal act,” said Mr Benyon.
“I have got the support of the police and crime commissioner [Anthony Stansfeld] on this.”
One of the traveller groups in Theale later forced their way on to land owned by Mr Benyon’s family-run estate in Englefield.
The MP said that the farmer had lost the productivity of the field at a crucial stage of the growing season.
He said: “The mess they have left – bags of clothes, human waste, white goods – it’s extraordinary. Piles of rubbish left to litter the countryside.
“My real concern is areas like Thatcham where people’s lives were really disturbed and threatened.
“People on motorscooters moving at speed in a dangerous way on residential streets late at night with absolutely no concern for the decent law-abiding people who live there and we as a society shouldn’t allow this.”
Speaking at a recent meeting, Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) asked for Thatcham Town Council “to discuss defence measures” in the future.
“They have been removed, but may return,” he said.
“At Dunstan Green they uprooted posts to get in.
“That could happen again and we need to be prepared.”
Town council leader Jason Collis (Con, Thatcham North) replied: “Dunstan Green is particularly awkward for us because of the flood alleviation, but that may make it more protected once that’s done.
“We didn’t want to spend money when we knew it was going to be dug up anyway.”
The Thatcham travellers were one of 22 unauthorised encampments reported in West Berkshire between May and June.