New policy to tackle ‘fly-grazing’

Fly grazing
Fly grazing

Wigan Council has updated its policy on ‘fly-grazing’ horses as part of a crackdown following a rise of incidents attributed to travellers.

The new approach - which will see council officers detain any horses grazing on council land - will be discussed by cabinet members next week.

A rise in the number of complaints about fly-grazing during the last 12 months prompted the change of approach, the report states.

Fly-grazing is the term for leaving animals - usually horses - left to graze on a piece of public land without permission from local authorities.

The policy means the council can detain horses without prior notice and owners have four days to recover the animal after which it can be passed into the care of a private contractor.

The report of Penny McGinty, assistant director for leisure and property, reads: “As a result of the number of complaints received from the public, and from ward members, an officer working group was established...to consider how to address the problem...given organisational changes and the introduction of the Control of Horses Act 2015.”

The report adds: “The horses being fly-grazed on Council land without permission are largely owned by members of the gypsy and traveller community.”

But it goes on to say that town hall officers “met several times with a senior member of the local traveller community” to make it clear the council’s decision to seize horses which are being fly-grazed.

The council’s overhaul of the animal related policy follows on from plans to revamp its approach to how it addresses travelling communities setting up camp on local authority owned land.

Karl Battersby, the town hall director of economy and environment, told the Confident Places scrutiny committee of the approach last month the council was taking to ensure travellers do not cause a public nuisance. The overhaul comes after a number of incidents in Lowton and other parts of the borough, including ugly scenes when a group of travellers became involved in a heated altercation with a councillor.

Mr Battersby said: “We are currently developing a traveller policy, which will ensure that we deal with unauthorised encampments in a consistent and appropriate manner.

“The draft policy will come to scrutiny for discussion later in the summer, followed by cabinet and finally to full council for adoption.”

The Evening Post contacted the National Gypsy Traveller Federation for comment and is waiting for a response.