Warwick and Leamington MP slams council for failing to build traveller site after encampment damages football club
Warwick District Council has said it is "cautiously optimistic" it has found a solution to be built in the next few years
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has called on Warwick District Council to urgently create a designated traveller site after an unauthorised encampment left a community football club’s future in jeopardy.
Mr Western has commented after the large encampment was set up at Central Ajax FC's ground in Warwick by around 28 families of travellers over the weekend
Pitches, goals and nets have been damaged and there was a large amount of rubbish left at the ground – as well as animal and human waste.
The travellers have since been moved on by Warwickshire Police and the club has spoken in praise of the force for the carrying out the eviction operation and of Warwick District Council for covering the cost of, and providing a team for, the clean-up.
Mr Western said encampments, like the one at Central Ajax, are especially frequent in Warwick district because it does not have any authorised transit sites.
It is the only district in Warwickshire not to offer a site for travellers to use – while there are eight across the rest of the county.
He claims the council now has a legal responsibility to build one because it was included in the authority's Local Plan for future housing and development approved in 2017.
Mr Western said: "“Firstly I am upset to hear about the damage done to Ajax football club which is a precious community asset.
“The group of travellers has not behaved appropriately, as many others do, and should be punished.
“But my major concern is that these sorts of incidents will continue if it does not provide places for Gypsy, Roma and other travelling communities to set up.
“The best-case scenario - nationally and in our district - is that travelling communities have a sufficient number of sites to choose from, where they can stay permanently or temporarily, which they can preserve and maintain themselves.”
In the Local Plan, a site in Harbury Lane has been earmarked for development and is intended to provide about 30 pitches for travellers that can be used for up to 28 days at a time.
Warwick District Council leader Cllr Andrew Day (Con, Bishop's Tachbrook) said: "The council were angered by the mess and disruption caused by the unauthorised encampment and is currently assisting Central Ajax FC with the funding and implementation of the clean-up.
"Although the occurrence of illegal encampments in the district has reduced in recent years, due to the relocation of the Kenilworth Horse Fairs, the need remains to find a site.
"Over many years approaches made by the council to acquire land to accommodate gypsies and travellers have been opposed by local communities, councillors and also MPs.
"However, the council has identified and has agreements in place that subject to the creation of a new football stadium for Leamington FC that the existing football club site can be earmarked for that use.
"The council is working with the club on the proposals for a new stadium which are at an advanced stage.
"If everything is agreed the process is likely to take a couple of years, but we are cautiously optimistic that we have found a solution."