Mon, 02 Oct 2017
TRAVELLERS who set up camp on Stroud Green last month are estimated to have cost the taxpayer more than £2,000.
The camp, which arrived on Saturday, August 19, had, in general, been considered to be “well behaved” by police, despite reports of residents being intimidated and public urination and defecation.
However, after the travellers ignored instructions to leave, West Berkshire Council was forced to obtain a court order to evict them, resulting in costs running into the thousands.
More than £14,000 has been spent on dealing with illegal traveller camps over the last year, according to council figures.
Discussing the Stroud Green encampment at a meeting of Greenham Parish Council last Wednesday, chairman Julian Swift-Hook acknowledged the “concern and distress” caused to local residents, but said the travellers had been moved on as quickly as possible.
He said: “Several residents contacted me during the six days the travellers encampment was on Stroud Green, telling me about antisocial behaviour on the part of the travellers, intimidating residents, driving recklessly across Stroud Green, urinating and defecating in public.
“I told residents to report the behaviour they had witnessed to the police.”
However, on attendance, police found no evidence of any criminal or antisocial behaviour, and so getting the travellers to leave remained a civil matter, in the hands of West Berkshire Council.
Around eight caravans parked on the council-owned green, after removing bollards close to the entrance to Newbury Racecourse.
Residents had been left frustrated at the seeming lack of action from the police and council to move the camp on.
After the travellers had left, one neighbouring resident, who did not wish to be named, questioned why the camp had been allowed to remain on the green for so long.
They told the Newbury Weekly News: “It took a week for the council to move them on. It was the height of summer, in the middle of the school holidays and we couldn’t use the green.”
However, Mr Swift-Hook said it had taken four days for council officers to obtain an order to move the travellers from the land.
The council had initially instructed the travellers to leave on Monday, August 21.
Mr Swift-Hook said: “It should be noted that this traveller encampment, which consisted mainly of travellers from mainland Europe, was considered by both the police and the council traveller liaison team to be well-behaved and friendly.
“There were no confirmed reports of antisocial or criminal behaviour according to the police, unlike the previous encampments in 2012 and 2013.”
It was after the 2012 issue that the council opted to place bollards around the green.
Options are being considered to improve the security at Stroud Green, but Mr Swift-Hook conceded there was no way to “100 per cent” prevent travellers camps setting up on public land.
West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Jo Bassett said: “The council has to find a balance between making its parks and public open spaces as accessible as possible for members of the public to be able to enjoy and also protecting them from unauthorised use.
“In the case of Stroud Green, the bollards that were removed have been concreted back into place.”