Councillor on Medway Council: The Issues


John Ward

The vexed question of illegal encampments of travellers continues to be a tricky one to solve. Now, there are undoubtedly some groups of travellers who are no trouble to anyone; however the ones we tend to get in Medway—and definitely those who have occasionally turned up at Horsted Farm—do not fall into that category. We have received nothing but horror stories from our residents, some of which are really nasty. There are two reasons why we get so much of this:

  1. There are a few groups of travellers who work the Medway Towns. They have a kind of circuit within this area: as soon as they are moved on from location A they go on to location B, then next time they move to C and so on, all the way round their usual sites until they end up back at point A. It takes a certain amount of time to get them moved, and the prohibition for each site lasts only three months, so they can easily play this game indefinitely, going round the same circuit of sites within our Towns.
  2. They remain here because they get so much work (and that means money) from our residents, for all kinds of ostensibly cheap jobs such as driveways. Their vans are signwritten nowadays, and look "legit", so it is very easy to be fooled into thinking these are proper local traders.
    Don't fall for this ploy!
The first problem is being tackled at national level (though it looks like it will take a year or two to come up with a really solid way forward) and locally by gathering intelligence about methods that have achieved worthwhile results elsewhere. For example, a "block Order" for all the illegal encampment sites will considerably speed up the moving-on of these groups, and we in Medway now have a High Court Order that covers the ten most persistently invaded sites.

The second matter is entirely in the hands of you, the residents: if people here didn't give the travellers any business, they wouldn't come to this area any more and would be compelled to go elsewhere. Perhaps this looks like dumping our problem on someone else; but the whole point of it is that people encourage the travellers when they pay them, and that is what needs to be tackled, along with the measures mentioned above. Neither will work very well without the other.