Scandinavian travellers mowed lawn and cleared rubbish at Dudley site
They are often chastised for leaving piles of rubbish wherever they go – but one group of travellers has been praised for mowing the lawn at a site they had illegally occupied.
The group of Scandinavian travellers prompted concerns from council bosses when they set up on a football pitch off Lister Road in Dudley earlier this year.
But officers from the authority were left stunned when they found a member of the group getting busy with a Flymo during a site visit.
The group numbered around 18 caravans and spent around a week at the site in May. They are also said to have tidied up rubbish before they left.
Dudley South MP Mike Wood made the surprising revelation during a House of Commons debate on illegal traveller encampments in which MPs discussed the need for more powers to remove travellers from playing fields and parks.
He told MPs: "Over the past three summers, there have been a number of traveller camps in Dudley.
"Some of those camps, although unauthorised, have caused very little damage or disruption.
"Indeed, at least one group of travellers from Scandinavia tidied up after themselves, mowed the grass, and probably left the pitch in a better condition than that in which they had found it."
Mr Wood told the Express & Star: "I think we can say that this particular group of travellers were fairly unusual in that they called the council and asked for Portakabin toilets when they first arrived.
"They tidied up the entire site before they left and one of them mowed the grass. If every group of travellers was like them then I don't think we would have any problems."
Mr Wood is one of a number of Black Country and Staffordshire MPs to call for tougher laws on illegal traveller camps.
The camps often leave sites strewn with rubbish. One earlier this year on playing fields in Penn, Wolverhampton, also left football pitches and areas used by residents for dog walking, covered in human waste and toilet paper.
Currently police powers (under Section 61 and 62a of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act), allow the removal of trespassers who cause criminal damage or engage in abusive and intimidating behaviour, or those who have six or more vehicles on the land.
Police can also seize and remove vehicles. Councils can apply for a court order to remove illegal camps, but this can take up to two weeks and incurs legal costs for the authority.
Mr Wood said: "I certainly support giving the police new powers to deal with illegal traveller camps, but I think that many of the reasons that are given for the fact that the police often seem to consider it inappropriate or unlawful to use section 61 powers because of the lack of welfare assessments and the needs of the children are likely to be applied to any such new powers."