Council spends thousands on gate to keep travelers out of p Aug 30, 2013 18:27:10 GMT
Post by Focus on Aug 30, 2013 18:27:10 GMT
A council has come under fire after opening a gate erected in front of a park to keep out travelers because they might injure themselves trying to get through.
Brighton and Hove City Council installed the barrier with a padlock across the entrance to Wild Park after removing a group of travelers at the start of the summer.
But the visitors kept driving over pavements and artificial mounds in a bid to gain access.
Open season : The gate which was erected to keep travelers out has now been opened amid health and safety fears
Setting up camp : Scores of caravans are now settled across Wild Park near Brighton
Advice : Police had warned the council that it was not safe for travelers to keep trying to access the site around the barrier
After advice from Sussex Police, the authority said it was going to open the gate 'to reduce the risk to road users'.
By opening the gates and letting them in means police have lost all powers to evict the group straight away.
The council must now go through a lengthy and costly court process in order to kick the travelers off the public land.
Conservative Councillor Dawn Barnett said the decision to open the gate was 'madness'.
She said: 'All the council is doing is encouraging unauthorized encampments. I think it’s not only health and safety gone mad, I think the council is mad for doing it.
'These travelers have been wandering around all summer. They were at Wild Park in May and now they’re back.
'I think it’s an absolute disgrace. The council paid to have a gate installed to keep the travellers out, and then they went right ahead and let them back in.
Delighted : Travellers have set up camp at Wild Park, Brighton, after being let into the site by council officials
Crazy : Critics have described the decision to open the gate and let travelers in as 'madness'
'When the gate was locked, they were just driving around it or going over the hills - but it was stopping a lot of caravans from getting there.
'Now the council have opened the flood gates, and as ever, honest, hard-working taxpayers have been left to foot the bill.'
More than 20 vehicles are already camped on the land, but more are expected over the weekend.
Mrs Barnett said: 'We had 70-odd caravans in a field somewhere else earlier this year.
'I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them and more showed up at Wild Park. The little kiddies that live nearby can’t play in the park anymore because it’s not safe.'
Colin Bradford, who runs the annual Wild Park Family Fun Day, said: 'It’s not acceptable. It’s a public park and people want to use it. It’s supposed to be there for everybody.'
The group arrived at the site last Friday evening.
Details of the gate being opened were discovered in a leaked email sent by the local authority to Councillors.
He said: 'After the initial trespass was reported, Sussex Police highlighted the dangerous nature with which the group were accessing the field, as the main access gate was locked following previous enforcement action.'
Problem : Around 100 caravans parked up in Wild Park in 2011. Councillors fear even more will come now
Fears : Residents are worried that the open gate will lead to influx of travelers and long legal battle similar to the one at Dale Farm (pictured)
'As such, a decision was taken to open the access gate in order to reduce the risk to road users and to stop the occupants from crossing the pavement to access the road.'
Inspector Bill Whitehead, of Sussex Police, said a Section 61 public offence order for an immediate eviction could have been granted if the gate had remained closed.
But now the gates were legitimately unlocked, the huge site could become the next Dale Farm.
Dale Farm, a plot of land in Essex, was an illegal encampment of travelers which had over 1,000 people, the largest itinerant concentration in the UK.
Insp Whitehead said there was a 'need to balance all the communities affected' when dealing with issues of unauthorized encampments.
But Michael Murray, of Brighton and Hove Environmental Action Group, said: 'The Section 61 order is intended to stop the council from spending vast amounts of money on evicting groups. As it is, the system is an absurd bureaucratic merry-go-round.'
Geoff Raw, an executive director at the council, said: 'The council has initiated legal proceedings to evict the travelers.'
Now yer avin a laarrffff FFS!! - Fx