Thursday, 24 September 2020

Large bill to pay for eviction of travellers

A MUSEUM, charity and landowner have been forced to spend thousands to remove travellers from their land.

The River & Rowing Museum in Henley, Shiplake memorial hall and Richard McQuillan, of Chalkhouse Green, spent the money hiring Able Investigations & Enforcements.

The Bristol firm was able to remove a group of almost 10 caravans from three sites last week after the travellers set up camps.

The first incident occured on Tuesday when the group pushed a barrier aside and entered the car park behind the museum in Mill Meadows.

The travellers were evicted by staff from the enforcement firm the next morning. They then simply drove round the corner in convoy into the station car park and parked near Centenary Business Park.

Network Rail, which owns the site, said it was working to evict the vehicles when the travellers left suddenly and went to Shiplake.

They parked on Memorial Hall field, off Memorial Avenue, and spent the night there before the firm evicted them the following morning.

Bob Partridge, who chairs the hall trustees, said the bill was about £5,000. 

He said: “At the moment we’re waiting to hear the outcome of discussions between our insurance brokers and the underwriters to know if this cost will be covered by our insurance.

“Should we not be reimbursed, in view of the serious impact there has already been on the hall’s finances due to the covid crisis, we will be launching an appeal for funds to cover both the enforcement costs and the costs of strengthening the field defences against any further incursions.”

The travellers also went to Emmer Green and after spending a short while near the parade of shops there, off Peppard Road, they moved to Chalkhouse Green and parked in a two-acre field, off Tanners Lane, owned by Richard McQuillan.

He said they set up camp for the night, jumped in a neighbour’s swimming pool and left rubbish around.

Mr McQuillan, who lives in Tanners Lane with his wife Sue, spotted nine caravans in his field after the couple returned from the vets at about noon on Thursday last week. He arranged for the enforcement firm to move them the following morning but stayed awake all night with his wife, their son Warren and two friends to safeguard their property, which is next to the field.

Nine of the firm’s officers arrived at 8am and they had moved the travellers by about 11.30am.

Mr McQuillan, who is retired, believed the latter went to Mapledurham on Friday before Calcot in Berkshire. 

He said: “They broke into the neighbour’s garden and defecated in it. They climbed over into our garden and took fruit and tomatoes.

“They were also swimming in the neighbour’s pool and stole a bag from a workman, which contained lunch, keys and other stuff and we found it under a tree in our garden.

“The enforcement officers found the keys in our field. There was also clothing, pants, wrappers, nappies and dog faeces.”

Mr McQuillan said travellers came up to his garden gate and gestured at him after he turned off the water supply to a tap outside.

He said: “They were punching their fists and it was as if to say ‘if you don’t give us water, violence will ensue’. They said they would smash the gate down if we didn’t turn the water back on, so we did.”

Mr McQuillan, who chairs the Fish volunteer centre in Sonning Common, said the weather had fortunately been rainy but this had not stopped movement in the site and the travellers were active until about 3am on Friday morning.

After they left he secured the gate to his field with three padlocks and a post to prevent access. The family, which has owned the property for more than 30 years, has been left with a £4,000 bill for using the enforcement firm.

Mr McQuillan said: “We were just shocked by the whole experience really, especially with them popping in and out of our garden all the time. It could have been worse and if we’d been away it would’ve been awful.

“The neighbours have been absolutely fantastic and we’ve had about 40 emails probably. People have been asking how they can help and is there anything they can do.”

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