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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Concerns raised after travellers pitch camp in Carlisle park

A community park is becoming a no-go zone after an illegal traveller camp sprang up, according to residents.

Travellers camp Carlisle photo
The illegal camp

Around 20 caravans and vans pitched up on Keenan Park in Botcherby, Carlisle, a week ago.

People living nearby say they are being put off visiting the site, which has allotments, full-sized football pitches and changing pavilion, and a children’s play area.

Police and Carlisle City Council are aware of the unauthorised settlement but say attempts to move the travellers must be done via the courts.

A notice has been served and a court hearing on Tuesday should lead to a possession order, calling for the travellers to quit the site.

Meanwhile, Rob Betton, a member of the city and county council for Botcherby, has said he is concerned about what is happening to human waste from portable toilets.

“If it’s going in the wooded area it is going to start stinking as it gets warmer,” he said.

“Some people have told me they would rather not go round the area where the vans are.”

The park is regularly used by children and adults playing football as well as dog walkers.

Mr Betton says measures, such as bollards, need to be put in place to stop travellers getting onto the land in future.

One resident said he had counted up to 30 vans, and believed many had come from France, according to their registration plates.

“I take my dogs there every night and I’ve seen an open toilet,” he said. “They’ve been putting all their rubbish in a bag and keeping it in one place.”

Carlisle City Council insists it has done all it can to move the group on but must follow legal procedures.

Officials won’t be able to carry out a full evaluation of any damage until the camp has moved on, when repairs can be made and a clean-up operation will begin.

She added: “In the longer term, we are considering options to make this site, and other sites within the city, more resilient against encampments.”

Police said the travellers would be subject to the standard “joint county encampment protocol” and officers would work with the council to minimise impacts on communities.

It had been thought that the travellers had stopped off at Keenan Park on their way to next week’s Appleby Horse Fair, but police don’t believe that is the case.

Elaine Lomas, one of the event organisers who is liaising with the travelling community, said there has already been an influx of Gypsies and travellers.

The seven-day event gets underway on Thursday and is expected to attract around 10,000 Gypsies and travellers and 30,000 visitors.

She said: “We have seen a lot arriving in Eden on a daily basis as well as quite a few in the south Lakes and Durham.

“The numbers have been slightly higher than last year but the amount we see now doesn’t necessarily reflect how many actually attend the fair.

“Although we try to get the message out not to come early, people seem to see stopping off in camps as part of the Appleby experience.”

She also said there had been concerns raised about a traveller camp off the A685 at Kirkby Stephen, which was set up about two weeks ago.

Police are urging motorists to take extra care on the route due to the added congestion and slow-moving vehicles.

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