The next mayor of High Wycombe has sparked outrage after condemning the behaviour of travellers as “not human” and joking a cull should be carried out on the nomadic community.
Independent councillor for Booker and Cressex, Brian Pearce, shared his controversial views after a group of caravans were spotted at a building site off Marlow Hill on Tuesday – where the former Wycombe Sports Centre used to stand.
Last August travellers caused a stir in High Wycombe after around 15 to 20 caravans moved into Totteridge Lane for a week, leaving behind human faeces and rubbish.
And in 2015 Marlow Town Council were forced to spend £900 of taxpayer’s money on a clean-up operation when travellers left a "trail of destruction" on Seymour Court Recreation Ground.
Travellers left behind a trail of rubbish after setting up camp in High Wycombe last year.
After learning a new camp had been set up this week, cllr Pearce branded the news “disastrous” and went on to compare the behaviour of travellers to his pet chickens.
He said: “They don’t live by the same rules that we live by. They are not interested in the environment, they are not interested in other people, they are not interested in anything.
“They live in their own little world and they cause chaos.
“Years ago when I was a lad I lived near Booker Common, there used to be gypsies coming along, they would park in the common and when they left you wouldn’t know they had been there.
“They went and dug holes for toilets and filled them in. This lot when they go there’s human excrement everywhere which is disgusting. They live by different rules.”
An eviction notice left on fencing surrounding the Wycombe District Council owned land ordered the group to leave by 8am yesterday (Thursday), and threatened eviction if they failed to leave.
The group were ordered to leave the WDC owned land by Thursday morning.
Cllr Pearce added: “Why do they do it other than public nuisance? It’s more than vandalism, it’s not human.
“We have some chickens, they tend to poo everywhere. They are on the same level as them.
“I don’t think there is a lot you can do. If they were squirrels you would cull a few, unfortunately you can’t cull human beings. What can be done?”
Romany Gypsy and project manager for national campaign group Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment, Herts (GATE), Sherrie Smith, slammed cllr Pearce’s comments and accused him of “inciting racial hatred”.
She said: “When I first read these comments I was appalled, my first thought went to the children both from the Gypsy and Traveller communities and the settled community.
“What kind of example is this setting? And how do the children in the encampment feel as a result of these hate filled comments.
“Comparing them to “chickens” is outrageous. The mayor is supposed to be a figurehead not make nasty stereotypical sweeping assumptions and verbalise them publicly.
“No one should talk about any other human like that. You cannot judge a whole ethnicity by a stereotype.”
Ms Smith – who helped set up a website for reporting gypsy and traveller hate crime – also criticised cllr Pearce’s “dangerous” views for “trivialising” the cull of nomadic communities “in the holocaust and over the centuries”.
She continued: “We are very disappointed in the future mayor, inciting racial hatred. We ask him to step back and look at the actual content and connotations of his comments.
“He is trivialising the “cull” of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies and Travellers, in the holocaust and over the centuries.
“Suggesting they are inferior comparing them to his animals. This kind of hatred and prejudice towards ethnic minorities is dangerous. Surely the people of High Wycombe could not possibly want him or what he stands for to represent them and their town.”
Communication and empathy is the key to improving relations with the travelling community, according to Ms Smith, adding “no one wants to be ostracised or isolated”.