Chesterfield business 'extorted' by Travellers

The Chesterfield business which was extorted has not been identified.
The Chesterfield business which was extorted has not been identified.

Travellers who illegally set up camp in Chesterfield demanded money from a business to leave the site, it has emerged.

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins described the incident as 'simply extortion' - and revealed he will propose a new bill in Parliament on Wednesday to try and make it a criminal offence for people to demand cash to leave land they are occupying illegally.

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Mr Perkins said: "The siting of impromptu Gypsy and Traveller camps in Chesterfield is always a controversial issue and there is always a significant public outcry when a camp appears in our town.

"Much of this is based on people's experiences of the huge clean up required afterwards and the impact it can have on the owners of the land.

"There is also a growing problem of Travellers setting up unauthorised encampments on business premises and then demanding cash to leave the site.

"This happened to a local business in Dunston recently and the advice they received from the police was that often paying for the Travellers to leave is cheaper than taking legal action.

"This is simply extortion and so I am proposing a new bill in Parliament on Wednesday to make it a specific offence to demand money to leave land that you are occupying illegally."

Mr Perkins added: "It is one thing to acknowledge that Travellers will need somewhere to be, it is quite another for them to use their presence as a negotiating and money making tool.

"However, while it is important not to generalise, there are historic problems linked to Traveller sites that makes communities uneasy about having a site in their area.

"And, though there is a duty on all of us to not discriminate and prejudge Travellers, there is also a duty on the Travelling community to adhere to the law and be respectful towards the communities they move in to."

Mr Perkins said the 'best approach' is to create permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches in every area so there are legitimate places for the groups to set up camp.

Chesterfield Borough Council has already identified two permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches.