MP reflects on success of Commonwealth Games - The Leamington Observer

MP reflects on success of Commonwealth Games

THE COMMONWEALTH Games 2022 in Birmingham provided a festival of sport for our region – one many will be sad to see come to a close.

On Sunday, it was a terrific atmosphere out on the circuit through Warwick and Leamington for the women’s and men’s bike races.

Residents turned out in their droves and nearly all I spoke to were so proud we hosted the event. There was a great reception on every lap. Unfortunately, no medals for England!

There was however a brilliant gold for Whitnash’s finest – and now the Commonwealth’s finest – heavyweight boxer Lewis Williams, of Cleary’s Gym in Leamington, who triumphed in his final bout.

I spoke to him before the games, and I know he set out to follow in the footsteps of legendary Leamington boxer Dick Turpin who also won gold after he broke the so-called colour bar preventing non-white boxers from competing for professional titles in 1948.

The England lawn bowls, and para lawn bowls, teams earned 7 medals in Leamington’s Victoria Park.

They contributed to a record-breaking total of 176 medals for England – a huge achievement for all.

Turning to another issue, I spoke on BBC CWR about finding a solution to illegal encampments in Warwick and Leamington.

It must be one that suits residents of Warwick district and the members of the Gypsy, Roma and travelling communities who stop in our towns.

It is clear we need a permanent site for travellers, a transit site for those passing through and negotiated stopping points where appropriate.

I believe reducing the number of illegal encampments could save our councils and businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

After my discussions with both councils and Warwickshire Police, it is clear the objective is to have a site in Harbury Lane which offers permanent residency and temporary stop off for travellers once Leamington Brakes FC moves stadiums.

The problem is this has been the case since when I was elected in 2017. I’m told we can expect this site to be set operational by 2025 – after it was delayed by yet another year.

This has taken much too long.

Warwickshire does not have a single transit site while Warwick district is the only district in the county without a permanent site.

I want to be clear that it is a minority of travellers who cause disruption, mess and criminality.

So far in 2022 in Warwickshire, there have been 22 illegal encampments – only 4 of which required police action.

There is legal guidance that compels councils to create spaces for travelling communities.

But it is the Government which must enforce penalties on councils that don’t hold up their end of the bargain – because that is when problems arise.

I’m told there are often particular camps which are more disruptive, and these are often larger groups.

Having a transit site means it is easier for the councils and the police to move these groups on.

Councils, the police, settled communities and travellers must open a dialogue to find a lasting solution.

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