8th Dec, 2016

Business park threatens 'won't pay' tax protest after travellers wreak havoc - again

Les Reid 12th Oct, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

FIRMS plagued by crime, filth and vandalism caused by travellers are threatening to refuse to pay business rates unless more is done.

The firms at Amphion Business Park, Silverstone Drive, near the Ricoh Arena off the A444 on the Coventry border are at the end of their tether amid destruction from the latest traveller encampment last week, which blocked the private road into their estate.

They say they have had to contend with more than six years of visits resulting in human excrement, damage to premises and vehicles, the water hydrant being broken into, and more.

Complaints to MPs, councillors and Severn Trent Water have fallen on deaf ears, they say, and police told them nothing could be done unless the government changed the law.

Attempts to have the road adopted by Warwickshire County Council have been dragging on.

The nine valuable businesses on the estate behind Leekes furniture store range from a respected cricket store serving Coventry and Warwickshire clubs and beyond, to printer, luxury car seats, safe and vaults engineers and mail order firms.

One businessman, who did not want to be named, said: “The trouble they have caused this time is just beyond us now. No authorities are doing anything about this and we are all sick of it.

“I personally feel that, even if the road is adopted, nothing will be done and the travelers will keep coming. We have to bear the cost.

“Our estate is minded to stop paying the taxes/rates and let the council take us to court.”

Previous eviction actions by bailiffs which cost the private owners had failed to prevent revisits by the travellers, he said.

A Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council spokesman said the land was now owned by freeholders Gallagher Estate Limited, who would deal with the clean-up, after previous owner Chase Midland went into liquidation. But the county council told us the borough council is another freeholder owner of part of the land.

Government advice – Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments (2015) – states councils and police have “extensive powers” to “tackle illegal and unauthorised encampments and the nuisance that they can cause.”

Powers relating to harm to communities and public health, and fly tipping, should be given due consideration as much as the travellers’ human rights, it adds.

Powers include stop notices, local bylaws and pre-emptive injunctions to prevent repeated unauthorised camps at ‘vulnerable’ areas.

Private landlords and councils can also seek possession orders – interim or permanent – to move on travellers.

But many local councils including Warwickshire say they do not have the resources to play ‘cat and mouse’ each time travellers stop somewhere.

Police have powers to direct both trespassers and travellers to leave land and remove any vehicle where there is a suitable pitch available on a caravan site elsewhere in the local authority area.

More such potential sites are included in Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council’s Local Plan, which is subject to further public consultation and inspection.

Warwickshire County Council estimates it could take up to a year for the road to be adopted because the liquidator had responsibility to get the road up to standard.

A county council spokeswoman said other matters were for the borough council.

Gallagher UK Ltd was unavailable for comment.