A BELLE Vale councillor is calling on the Home Secretary to strengthen laws preventing travellers establishing illegal encampments after they left a Halesowen school with clean-up costs of more than £35k.

Cllr Simon Phipps has sent a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel after a small group of travellers occupied land owned by Earls School in Whittingham Road for two weeks in the summer - leaving children unable to use the field for football as litter and human excrement gathered on it.

It is the second time travellers have occupied the site - back in 2016 around 40 caravans set up camp there - again costing thousands in clean-up costs.

In his letter - which calls for a change in the law to make trespassing by travellers a criminal offence so police can evict travellers - cllr Phipps points out these two encampments have cost the school more than £35,000.

The money was spent on legal costs to evict the travellers and then subsequent costs for cleaning the land and securing it from future encampments.

Previous Home Secretary Sajid Javid pledged to review, including considering whether trespass should be made a criminal offence.

Currently it is a civil matter which means landowners must obtain court orders to remove trespassers.

Cllr Phipps said “It is appalling that so much money had to be spent on removing and cleaning up after travellers rather than on our children’s education.

“As a council, we will be taking action by having a traveller’s transit site ready in the borough in time for next year’s travellers’ season, but the Government must equally act.

“I was pleased that Mr Javid announced a review and I have written to his successor, Priti Patel, to ask for the Home Office to consider this case when deciding what action to take.

“I hope that they will acknowledge the issues this causes up and down the country and take action to give police more powers to move illegal encampments on immediately.”

Stourbridge News:

Cllr Phipps said after the first encampment a fence was put in and a trench was dug along the outside of the field.

After the second trespass, which saw three caravans gain access, the fence has been strengthened and the trench extended along the Furnace Lane side of the field.

Fencing has also been put in off the 'ancient lane' that runs between Whittingham Road and Newfield Lane.

The recent travellers left piles of human, horse and dog faeces as well as items including nappies, toilet roll, toys, food wrappers, a gas canister and children's play pen, leaving football teams unable to use the area until environmental cleaners were called in.

A clean-up was held when residents of Furnace Lane and nearby came together to tidy some of the litter that was left strewn over the field.

A Government spokesperson said: “The result of our initial consultation was clear - people want to see greater protection for local communities and for the police to be given greater power to crack down on trespassers. We are committed to delivering this.

“We will announce the next steps soon.”

They added that the letter had been received and that a response would be sent in due course and said since 2010, councils have been given a range of powers to tackle unauthorised sites and illegal encampments, and the Government is committed to strengthening these powers further.