Open access means controversial travellers’ sites in Billington are being monitored ‘much more effectively’ by council

Greenacres travellers' site
Greenacres travellers' site

The controversial Greenacres and The Stables travellers’ sites are being monitored “much more effectively”, according to Central Beds Council which now has open access to the land.

Seven months on from a council vote to put its £9m plans to shut down the sites on hold after travellers pledged to improve behaviour, CBC has told the LBO that residents are continuing to engage with its officers.

It was in July 2017 that the LBO first reported how CBC had devised the plan to acquire both sites in Little Billington – if necessary by compulsory purchase – in order to establish a replacement council-owned and managed gypsy and traveller site.

It followed years of Greenacres hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons with reports of crime, fly-tipping, open sewage and theft of water and electricity supplies. It was notably the centre of a human slavery scandal uncovered in 2011, which saw 24 people rescued. Although there are 56 authorised plots, 96 have now been confirmed to exist there.

But with the council’s “radical” plan hanging over them, the travellers gave CBC assurances of a turnaround, and councillors voted to give them a chance.

A project board was set up aimed at making the sites compliant with planning and licencing regulations, safe and well maintained, well managed and accessible to the authorities. The council warned that if the approach failed it would look to press ahead with its original plan.

This week Councillor Kevin Collins, Deputy Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “Whilst it may not be obvious to see, there has been both positive engagement with the residents on the sites and progress with addressing some of the issues.

“For example, the land is being registered formally at the Land Registry, some caravans have been removed and fly tipped rubbish has been cleared by the residents themselves.

“The residents have continued to engage with us and the other agencies. We have open access to the site, so we can come and go as needed and without prior permission.

“This means we can monitor the site much more effectively and we are also engaging more and more of the residents.

“We are committed to addressing the issues with the sites and will use legal processes where necessary.”