Fri, 08 Jun 2018
OUTRAGED residents from Theale have criticised a senior West Berkshire councillor for her “totally disrespectful” comments about a trench dug to prevent travellers returning to their community.
Villagers in Theale armed themselves with spades earlier this week to dig a trench around Woodfield Way in a bid to stop “intimidating” groups from returning to the area.
Residents cited a lack of action from Thames Valley Police and West Berkshire Council before deciding to make their own fortifications along the green, located in the northern part of the village.
It followed residents’ reports of violence, brawls, blocked driveways and thefts along the road since the first group of travellers moved on to land off Woodfield Way in recent weeks.
Residents still filing into a packed #Theale Village Hall for a special public meeting on recent traveller settlements in the area. Some can't find seats and are having to stand pic.twitter.com/9KYQ7G2N0c— Fiona Tomas (@fionatomas_nwn) June 7, 2018
And they continued to vent their anger at a special public meeting last night (Thursday) at Theale Village Hall, where Thames Valley Police apologised for the handling of the situation.
An hour before the meeting, Jeanette Clifford, the district council’s executive member for highways and transport, environment and countryside, appeared on a regional TV broadcast, during which she called the trench “unnecessary”.
Tempers frayed as one resident stood up and requested Mrs Clifford to apologise to the residents of Woodfield Way for her comments.
Mrs Clifford responded: “I understood the frustration and why you felt the need to do that.
“But I also said that there was a risk in doing that.
“I also feel that it wasn’t necessary – we were moving in to solve that problem.”
But furious listeners remained relentless in venting their anger.
When the meeting was approaching the two-hour mark, Theale councillor Alan Macro, also present at the meeting, stood up to politely remind residents of the time, to which one frustrated resident replied: “Have you got to go home and watch Love Island?”
Another asked Mrs Clifford if she had first-hand experience of living with travellers on her doorstep.
Mrs Clifford responded she had – in her Northcroft ward – which she clarified was adjacent to where she lived.
She continued: “I can see why you did it, I just wished that you hadn’t and I’m really glad no one was hurt.”
“Now we are going to have to make it safe.”
One resident branded her comments “totally disrespectful”.
But Councillor Clifford responded: “I’m sorry if you think I was disrespectful about the trench.
“On balance, I feel there was a risk there – a safety risk – and I’m sorry you’ve done it.”
Another resident simply jeered: “You’re digging a hole for yourself.”
See next week's Newbury Weekly News for more on this story.