Last month we were no doubt all shocked to see a new arrival of travellers on several sites in Shepperton and in neighbouring villages. News spread about a large funeral taking place. Another rumour of a large wedding. Councillors must have patted themselves on the back that they had installed the many bollards on Lower Halliford Green last year…until dawn broke to show that travellers had no respect for these measures and had sawn through posts and a hedge to gain access to the green.
But that incursion was small in comparison to the one on the rec by the Greeno. Here a virtual village had appeared overnight. Travellers had arrived around 1am, cut through the chain on the gates at the Bruce Avenue side and forced through the gates. When I was there the following afternoon white vans and builders flat bed vehicles were coming back to the site, presumably after a day making a few bob locally.
Thankfully by the next day they had all moved on but had left their mark by ripping up the matting and tarmac of the children’s play area. What on earth for?!
So the question is, how to control the situation. It seems the law is powerless. Without getting into the discussion about rights, the provision of sites etc, the act of cutting down hedges and breaking locks to access is a crime. It is criminal damage and breaking and entering. Joint Enterprise is the term for collective guilt. Anyone who is associated with the criminal act of breaking and entering should surely therefore be guilty by association. So why is nothing done?
Councillor Robin Sider was approached by many frustrated residents and responded thus:
“There have been several thefts reported of equipment during the past week or so and we have constantly been in touch with the police. The law as it is seems to be heavily in favour of Travellers with such things as human rights etc, (let alone our own human rights). The council secured an order signed by the magistrates at Guildford court for the Travellers to leave the land that they had occupied.
The order required the Travellers to leave the land within 24hrs after the serving of the order. Hence they have gone! This has been a long hard slog for the council who have worked tirelessly and done everything possible to protect their residents from what can only be described as an invasion by Travellers on our community.
We will now be faced with clearing up all the rubbish that will be left behind, together with disinfecting areas that have been used as a toilet. Once this is completed, the council will once more endeavour to identify how they can prevent a re-occurrence of the past week, something which will be very difficult, bearing in mind that the Travellers effected an entrance this time on Lower Halliford Green by sawing down the new posts that the council had installed, and cutting down and removing hedges.
In respect of Manor Park, the council will carry out repairs to the park entrances. (The height barrier was vandalised to obtain entry) and they will look to once more securing the double gate which the Travellers forced open in the Greeno recreation ground. The children’s playground in this park will also have to be closed for a period of time to allow the council to replace the rubber matting which was ripped up and pieces thrown at passers by, and which now poses a safety hazard for young children”.
So, we will watch out for what comes our way this summer with interest.