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Evicted travellers set up camp across road

June 24, 2008 10:30 PM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in Brentwood Gazette

Travellers mocked residents and council officials by illegally setting up camp just yards from where they had been evicted.

Travellers moved onto the Brentwood Centre car park on Doddinghurst Road on Friday, but were forced off by a police eviction notice on Saturday.

However, because the notice only applied to the centre car park, they simply crossed the road and set up camp in the car park of the Bishops Hall Community Centre, which is usually closed off with a barrier.

The travellers then knocked down a metal post to move onto grass next to a children's play area and basketball courts.

Residents surrounding the Elizabeth Road site were then subjected to a weekend of noisy music, barking dogs and allegedly the smashing of cars, which were later taken away.

Questions have now been raised by residents and councillors about why the land was not better protected and what more can be done when illegal camps are set up over the weekend.

Speaking on Monday morning, one resident said he was fed up with travellers descending on different sites around the area, year after year.

"We are sick to death of them," he said. "I understand they have got to have somewhere to live, but I think they abuse everything.

"It must cost the council thousands to clear it all up.

"I just think it's out of order - find them a permanent site and let them pay rates like anybody else.

"They do what they like and go where they like and then just move onto the next one."

Ward councillor David Kendall said one of the problems was many travellers now understand how the system works, knowing it is difficult to get the ball rolling for eviction over a weekend.

"What I'm asking for is a much better system to be put in place to handle the issue, particularly when it's council land involved," he said.

"My concern is I don't know what would have happened if there had been a wedding reception or something at the community centre at the weekend."

Police issued travellers with another eviction notice on Monday and they had left by Tuesday morning, leaving considerable mess.

Brentwood Borough Council is currently consulting on where to locate traveller pitches in future.

Cllr Kendall added: "I think one of the things that upset a lot of residents is that whenever there appears to be travellers, there's always a lot of rubbish left. Generally there's a lot of noise as well and when you have got the backdrop of a consultation, it's not surprising when a lot of the people are saying, 'We are not happy about this'."

When questioned why the barrier to protect the Bishops Hall Community Centre was not down on Saturday, Environmental Health officer for Brentwood council, Richard Farr, said: "It's really difficult where you have got public land.

"We have got to have this balance between defending a piece of land and maintaining the openness of the land itself, which people do value."