20/08/07 – Public land is not for travellers
Originally Printed in the Swindon Advertiser, 20th August 2007.
COUNCILLORS have hit out at travellers who park up on public land.
A family from Chelmsford in Essex set up camp across the road from the Holiday Inn near Coate Water on a patch of land not protected by barriers.
They arrived as one family of travellers from Surrey left West Swindon on Tuesday.
One caravan, one car and a small truck moved in at about 10pm.
Calling themselves the Smiths, they said they were not here to cause trouble and would remove any rubbish.
Speaking on Friday, a 39-year-old from the group said: “We are looking for somewhere to go, but haven’t found anywhere yet but we hope to leave today.
“We came here as it was getting late so decided to stop.
“We will be sure to take our rubbish with us.
“We don’t particularly like Swindon as the people aren’t very friendly.”
The group said it had previously come to Swindon and stayed in the same place four years ago.
Nick Martin, (Con, Shaw and Nine Elms), Swindon Council’s member for resources, said: “The government should treat this as a criminal offence rather than a civil case.
“Otherwise it’s a long and drawn out process.
“I think in this instance it is a case of holiday traffic.
“My general opinion is that we would suffer real difficulties if these people were offered work here.
“It would prolong their stay and the quantity of waste would rise which we would have to clear away.”
Covingham and Nythe councillor Glenn Smith (Con) said: “The thing that annoys me most about the situation is that the police didn’t treat this as an emergency and said that the non-emergency number should be called.
“It’s a frustrating situation as the travellers are on council-owned land and it could take some time getting them off it.
“If they were on private land then the landowner would have the powers to evict them sooner.”
The land on Dorcan Way has always been a hotspot for travellers passing through Swindon.
A group of about 30 arrived at the site, near the entrance, staying for 12 days two years ago.
They managed to move their caravans onto the site despite a series of barriers and deterrents, which the council had erected at a cost of