Saturday, July 19, 2008

King's Park Travellers' incursion

Thank you to all of you who were in touch yesterday to warn of the Travellers who had arrived in King’s Park and next to the doctor’s surgery in Harewood Crescent.  My apologies for not getting back to everyone, however as you can imagine we were active in doing what we could to stop the situation escalating and ensure that we began to move them on as soon as possible.


To give you a full update on what has happened to date:

A group of 7 traveller caravans arrived in Kings Park early yesterday afternoon. Before they had been reported to us, they had already gained access to the lower part of the Park and had began setting up in the middle of the old railway track on the all-weather pitch. Upon inspection it appears that they somehow ‘dug’ their way through the earth bunding.

Parks Officers reacted quickly to closing the Kings Park gates and soon learned another group of around 6 had driven on to the open space on the corner off Springbank Road and Harewood Crescent. The second group were meaning to join the main group on Kings Park and suggestions of bribes and veiled threats were used during the next 3-4 hours to attempt to gain entry. At this point the Police were called. The other group of travellers from Harewood Crescent then appeared at the top of Littledown Avenue and a van approached the gates from inside the Park – this is a manoeuvre used to require an Officer to open the gates to allow the exiting vehicle to leave, and at this point the incoming travellers would attempt to force entry – however a PCSO arrived on the scene and the 6 caravans went back up Littledown Avenue. I and my colleagues split in order to cover all three gates into the Park.

We were then advised (at around 7:30pm) that these remaining travellers had gained entry to Kings Park and had met up with the other group. The point of entry was found adjacent to the play park opposite the Nursery at the Clarence Park Road end, a traveller was seen chain-sawing a knee-rail post at ground level and removing a section large enough to drive the remaining vehicles through. The Police asked people in the Park if they could identify the man and although it was clear it was one of the travellers, I do not believe (at time of writing) that the Police have sufficient evidence to take any action against the individual.

My apologies for the amount of detail but it is just to show that every reasonable step was taken to prevent this incursion from growing.

From a first look, it appears that this is the same group that occupied the same area last year (August 2007). This group generally frequent the area to stay locally for the Steam Fair at the end of August. As these were working travellers there was a lot of garden and other waste left behind, unlike the other recent group on the East Overcliff. Because of the behaviour of some of this group and the damage that was caused in order to get on to the space, this may be reflected in the speed we can reclaim the land, however the minimum is usually within 7-10 days.

Our parks officers will be carrying out the initial needs assessment later today with a Police Officer and our lawyers will be briefed on Monday in order to start the legal process.

I’m very grateful to Brian Heppenstall from the King’s Park team who has provided much of the detail for this information.

You may be aware that Jane has already arranged for wooden stakes to be placed around the green space in Harewood Crescent to stop incursions in the future, to be paid for from our ward fund.  We will be pressing the Council to put these in place as a matter of urgency next week to ensure that once moved from the park the travellers can’t move there.

I’ll of course keep you up to date with any further developments.

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