Editor’s comment: Olympic Park developer’s ‘infestation of Travellers’ remark is unacceptable

The site on the Olympic Park being developed by East Wick and Sweetwater. Picture: Google Earth

The site on the Olympic Park being developed by East Wick and Sweetwater. Picture: Google Earth - Credit: Archant

Like you, I hope, I’m pretty disturbed by the reference by a top Olympic Park developer to the Traveller community as an “infestation”.

Describing a migrant group as though they are insects to be exterminated, like Katie Hopkins infamously did three years ago when talking about refugees, carries sickening overtones of the language employed by Nazi Germany to refer to Jewish people.

So I’ll keep this bit brief: whatever Andrew Atkins believes particular people within this community are responsible for, it crosses a line – dehumanising and perhaps even inciting hatred towards an already marginalised group – to talk about them in those terms.

Yet almost more disturbing than this comment is the corporate failure of East Wick and Sweetwater to take responsibility for his words, or even – heaven forbid – to retract them or make an apology. “Advising” Mr Atkins about the company’s equality and diversity policies doesn’t quite cut it, especially when (a) as development director he is senior enough to know what he is doing and (b) those policies have seemingly failed to stop attitudes like these being discussed at high levels within the organisation.

• It is interesting to see Phil Glanville admit the council doesn’t inspect hostels more frequently because it can’t afford to.

Many readers will have seen our Hidden Homeless coverage and asked why £7m of public money spent with hostel providers is not a sufficient bargaining chip to force hostels to improve conditions. And I accept that an inspection and enforcement regime has a cost associated with it – but since the money to build 13,000 council houses isn’t forthcoming, and families don’t want to move to Birmingham, might this not be the easiest win the council has available?