A cross-party parliamentary group co-chairman has said solutions to Grimsby’s traveller site needs can be found, but said “inflammatory language and setting one community against another is not going to help”.
Labour’s Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, was one of two signatories on a letter to North East Lincolnshire Council leader Philip Jackson criticising UKIP Councillor Jane Bramley for quoting social media posts against two proposed sites on the Nunsthorpe Estate.
The comments allegedly made reference to “petrol bombs” being prepared and Councillor Bramley had warned council leaders that “World War Three” might happen if one of the sites was chosen.
Councillor Bramley says she was just repeating what had been said and could not be held responsible for others' actions.
Mrs Green, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, told Local Democracy Weekly the community suffered a great deal of racial abuse and hostility.
“There are a number of really terrible cases, we have had some violence, abuse and even murder,” she said.
Work is ongoing to encourage communities to report hate crime but there is a lack of trust in authorities.
Key factors include finding suitable sites - an issue exacerbated by planning laws, a lack of funding and tougher legislation cracking down on unauthorised sites.
Mrs Green said: “Seeing a local councillor quoting inflammatory language is downright irresponsible and worsens an already flammable situation.”
She said there was a “big role for the council and elected councillors to show leadership and broker relations between the two”.
“What can work really well is when there’s constructive conversations, which negotiate the way in which two communities all behave towards one another,” she said.
She pointed to successful schemes elsewhere in the country including “Negotiated Stopping” in Leeds, and work the police were doing in Cheshire - a town where in 2003 traveler Johnny Delaney, 15, was killed by two youths after an altercation between his friends and a group of teenagers in Ellesmere Port.
“You need to get constructive plans in place so everybody can be a good neighbour.”
Previous unauthorised sites in Grimsby have agitated tensions, with residents complaining about anti-social behaviour, trespass on private property and the mess left behind when they are eventually moved on.
“Where people have experienced that they are rightly going to feel angry and reluctant to welcome traveller communities,” said Mrs Green.
“But it’s about dividing bad behaviour from discrimination. We have got to be clear we cannot condemn a whole community for the bad behaviour of a few people.”
“The answer in the end is decent, legitimate sites. People go to unauthorised sites because they can’t find somewhere legitimate.
Suitable sites varied from area to area, said Mrs Green, but she added it was not necessarily right to put them on the outskirts.
“Why should trailer communities, more than any other communities, be placed further away from amenities?”
“We have got to recognise the human rights for travellers are equal to, not more than, the human rights of settled communities.” — DANIEL JAINES