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Monday, 14 October 2019
TRAVELLERS were moved off the common in Peppard by police just hours after they had set up camp.
Seven caravans and a number of cars pitched up at the top common off the B481, near the village primary school, at about 9.30am on Wednesday last week.
Residents and parish councillors alerted the police and the Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators, who are responsible for the land.
The conservators are thought to have obtained an emergency court order requiring the travellers to leave the site, which is owned by the Nettlebed Estate, immediately.
Witnesses said they left amicably under police supervision at about 7pm.
The school had to prevent its pupils from using the common at breaktime and lunch.
Headteacher Nick Steele said he approached the travellers when they arrived but they would not move.
He said: “I walked over and I asked who I should speak to and three chaps just turned round and said, ‘you can speak to all of us’.
“I said, ‘I’m awfully sorry, you can’t stay here — my school uses this land all day’ and one of them asked if it was the school’s land.
“He said, ‘we can use it if we want’ and I said, ‘no you can’t because we have permission from the owners of the land’. They offered to move the caravans further to one side but I said no.”
Mr Steele said he returned to the school and was advised by police not to engage with the travellers any more.
He rearranged the children’s PE lessons and after-school clubs which were set to take place on the common the next day.
Some pupils used their classrooms at breaktime because not all the children were able to fit in the school playground at once.
Mr Steele said: “The children were very calm and understanding. It offered us an educational opportunity because the children had never come into contact with travellers before. They were curious about the life travelling people lead.
“They asked what they were doing, where they were going, where did they come from and what they do for a living. I had an assembly with them and talked about traveller communities.”
He added: “We are very grateful for the speed at which things were put back in our favour.
“We had a lot of visits from people during the day and the police advised us just to live and let live and that it was best not to engage.”
Residents said they were confused about what was happening when the travellers arrived.
Jon Keeble, 59, of Church Lane, said: “At first I thought it might be a film crew but then I realised the caravans didn’t look pretty enough. We wondered how many there were going to be.
“I felt sorry for the children in the school because I knew it could be an issue for them.”
Neighbour Tony Ryan, 80, said: “I do not think this would have arisen if the Government had built sites for them. I don’t have many problems with their presence but I realise that it’s not convenient on this site, particularly because of the school. The children had nowhere to go.”
Stephen Plant, 61, also of Church Lane, said: “I was obviously a bit horrified when they turned up, especially as it’s a school play area. We should be grateful that it has never happened before.”
Parish councillor Ray Freeman said: “We were quite fortunate. We thought that if travellers pitched up in the village they would do it by the cricket pavilion.
“There’s nothing we can really do to prevent it happening. You can’t put a guard there all the time. People just have to be aware that if they see travellers they need to inform us straight away.
“We had a very good response from the police and have sent them an email thanking them.”
He said the travellers didn’t leave much mess behind.
A Thames Valley Police spokeswoman said the travellers were issued with a Section 61 order saying the site had to be vacated and this was complied with by 8.15pm.
29 September 2019
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