Unauthorised encampments fall 60% in Sandwell

Published 22nd December 2017

Firm action to deal with unauthorised encampments has seen the number of groups setting up camp in Sandwell fall by 60% during 2017.

Sandwell Council has dealt with unauthorised encampments 34 times this year, compared with 85 times in 2016.

The latest saw a group of three caravans removed from the car park at Wednesbury Cricket Club, which is leased by the council, on Saturday (16 December). The group were evicted within three hours.

Action taken by the council to tackle the issue in 2017 has included an injunction, using police powers and bailiffs, a transit site and securing land at risk.

The council successfully served an injunction on 14 members of the Cassidy family in August, preventing them from setting up unauthorised encampments anywhere in Sandwell. 

The injunction also included banning anyone from setting up an encampment on 17 specific council-owned sites.

Travelling groups can now be moved to a transit site in Smethwick – or ordered to leave the borough or face be banned from returning for three months. All groups are offered the option of using the transit site, however only one group has taken up the option since its launch, with most preferring to leave the borough.

As well as the transit site and the use of police and bailiffs, the council has secured sites known for unauthorised encampments to prevent trespassing. Checks found 86 sites owned by the council and privately had been targeted by groups since 2013.

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economy Councillor Paul Moore said: “The action we’ve taken to reduce the number of unauthorised encampments in Sandwell has had a major impact – to see the number of encampments fall so drastically tells us what we’re doing is having a real effect.

“Not only does this issue cause real worry and concern for our communities, it was also costing the council around £250,000 a year.

“We’re committed to continue tackling unauthorised encampments as a priority in 2018.”