Burnham-On-Sea’s MP James Heappey has called on Somerset County Council to step up efforts to get a group of travellers moved from the town’s seafront as work on a longer-term solution to the problem continues.
Mr Heappey spoke out during a visit to Burnham with Mark Shelford, the Conservative candidate for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), both of whom are pictured in Burnham’s Pier Street car park.
The MP told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The County Council is taking too long to react to the illegal encampment that is currently on the public highway in Burnham.”
“We’ve seen in the last few years that Sedgemoor District Council have managed to move people on with great speed and I hope that the County Council can learn from Sedgemoor’s example and accelerate this process because it is ‘not on’ having an encampment for as long as it’s been there.”
The travellers have been on Burnham’s Esplanade for over three weeks and the County Council says it has legal action underway to get move them.
During the visit to Burnham, Mr Heappey showed Mark Shelford several of the areas where the travellers pitch up before discussing the issue in more detail. Mr Shelford gave his support to moving them.
The MP said: “I am really grateful to Mark Shelford who’s come to see me in Burnham because he’s heard about all the problems that we’ve been having here in Burnham with illegal traveller encampments.”
“We’re in the Pier Street car park which more often than not is where they come and I wanted Mark to hear how Burnham residents feel about this and I wanted Mark to have the opportunity to say what he would do if he was our Police and Crime Commissioner.“
“This is a police matter and the police have been brilliant in many ways but if this was a higher priority I know a lot of local people would be very grateful to see this resolved more quickly whenever it happens.”
Mr Shelford added: “I completely agree and I have three priorities – the first of those priorities to make sure that the police are there for the residents and that’s reassurance about actually acting when the residents are concerned about issues, particularly with safety and criminality. Low-level anti-social behaviour can quickly become very serious but it needs to be engaged so that is absolutely one of my priorities.”
The MP added: “We need your help here and I think people in Burnham will be very supportive of anything that you are offering to do if elected to help us move and even illegal encampments more quickly. The anger that you hear time and again is ‘why should there be one set of rules for us and one set of rules for the traveller community’?”
During the visit, the candidate also met several local councillors and businesses to hear about crime concerns in the area.
Burnham-On-Sea.com will be featuring all the PCC candidates in the run-up to next Spring’s scheduled election.
We have invited Somerset County Council to comment on the points raised and this story will be updated when one is received.