Saturday, 16 December 2017

Travellers seen off

TRAVELLERS pitched up in Henley on the eve of the royal regatta.

TRAVELLERS pitched up in Henley on the eve of the royal regatta.

Three caravans and five cars parked in Makins recreation ground on Monday evening and another four caravans and three vans parked beside Fair Mile the following day.

Residents of the Gainsborough estate persuaded the families, who were of Eastern European descent, parked in the recreation ground to leave after just 90 minutes.

Police used statutory powers to move on the Irish travellers on Fair Mile on Tuesday night but they then camped at Nettlebed common, where they remained until Wednesday evening.

Town councillor Will Hamilton, who lives in Greys Road, said the travellers gained access to the recreation ground by lifting the gates off their posts.

They were involved in a confrontation with residents before being persuaded to move on.

Cllr Hamilton said he was verbally abused by the visitors as he tried to talk to them.

“They were antagonising the local kids and they were pretty aggressive to be honest,” he said.

He said one traveller had complained about being ill and told him that two more caravans were on their way to the site.

Police were called but the travellers left and then town council parks staff were called out to chain the gates shut.

Cllr Hamilton said the episode highlighted a “real sense of community spirit” as the residents united in their action. David Eggleton, 55, of Gainsborough Road, said there was a confrontation between local children and some of the travellers over a football.

He said: “A lot of people on the estate came out and were very angry.

“The travellers took over the whole field. I’ve lived here for 55 years and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. The gates have never been locked because we’ve never had this problem.”

Mr Eggleton, a father-of-eight, said he had some sympathy for the travellers.

“They’ve got to have somewhere to go and if they do things right and by the book like everyone else has to then that would be fine,” he said.

“We’re all human and have a right to live somewhere but they were going the wrong way about it.”

Henley Town Council officials asked the travellers on Fair Mile, who had erected tyre swings on trees by the side of the road, to leave. Town clerk Mike Kennedy spoke to two of the families.

He said: “We told them they were trespassing and were there without the council’s consent and should vacate the area. They were very polite and understanding.

“It’s the first time that I’m aware of travellers encroaching on our land and it’s the first time in 24 years as a clerk that I’ve had to serve notices on travellers occupying land.”

Tony Lawson-Smith, who lives in Fair Mile, said the travellers were spotted urinating on a fence and they left rubbish behind.

He said: “It’s always worrying when people like that arrive near where people live. The rubber tyre swing they put up made it look as though they were settling in for a long stay.”

Police received a number of calls from residents asking that the travellers be moved on. Sgt Graham Pink said: “We can’t just go up there and tell them to go. There are all sorts of powers but we have to bear everything in mind, including human rights.”

Barbara Lewis, who chairs Nettlebed Parish Council, said users of the common required permission from the owners, the Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators.

She said: “We have people who use the common, like the annual fair, and we welcome them but in the past anyone who has wanted to use it for any reason always asks for permission first.

“We’ve never had people just set up camp and it’s not something we would like to encourage.”

Cllr Lewis said she had not encountered travellers in the village in 36 years.

lPolice can serve a section 61 order under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which forces people to move and prevents them from returning within three months.

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