Tonight I have been down to Bowthorpe Hall Park to see and speak to a fairly large travelling community who have illegally set up on the park. The group started at 2 or 3 caravnas at the beginning of the week and tonight I counted a dozen. Worringly enough they got access by destroying the gates on the Heritage Garden, which was the hard work of the local community.
I banged on a few doors to get some perspective from local people. Everybody had the same 3 concerns, and some rather more.
1. That the rule of law was under threat
2. That local people were being prevented from using a community resource
3. That the site would be left in a state that would either ruin the park and / or cost a lot for the tax payer to clear up.
I think we need a healthy dose of "tough liberalism" here. I have no problem with their choice of lifestyle and believe that we need a county (or region, or nation) wide strategy to provide traveller camps to prevent this from happening. I would like to see an agreement with City Care where if they bundle up their waste carefully and place it at the side of the road then it will be collected.
However ... I also believe that the current Human Rights Act is preventing many councils from dealing with these issues effectivly. I think that we need to make planning laws the same for travellers as for the rest of the community. I reject the crude quotas on traveller camps from regional bureaucrats and I want to see the council and the police with the power to act quickly in such cases.
Norwich City Council claim they will move the travellers in 3 weeks - I'm not so sure, but I'd like to believe them. They are illegally camped on the communal land which belongs to the whole community. I spoke to some people on the Bishy Barnabee Way end of the park who refused the take their children and dogs across the land because of this. I spoke to an elderly lady who lives nearby who is worried about potential anti-social behaviour.
Isn't it time that the national goverment, the police and the City Council stood up for the law abiding majority here?
I'll keep you up to date on this one.