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Travellers clean-up to cost thousands after asbestos and human waste left behind

Travellers at Eling Rec
Travellers at Eling Rec

CLEANING up after a series of unauthorised traveller encampments in Totton will cost thousands of pounds after asbestos and human waste were left at one site.

A convoy of caravans moved on to the King George V recreation ground and playing fields in Calmore Road on 21st August. They left on Friday after New Forest District Council gained an eviction order from Southampton Magistrates’ Court.

Broken glass, human waste, tree branches and rubble thought to contain asbestos was discovered. Later that evening the group moved to the fields at Eling recreation ground, around two miles away.

Town clerk Derek Biggs told the A&T: “It will cost thousands to put things right. People say we should put barriers up to protect our land, but the cost would be staggering.

“It has overwhelmed us at a time when we have got enough going on with trying to reopen everything after coronavirus. It also causes huge concern to residents and obviously there is a danger, with the waste left behind. This can’t go on.”

Mr Biggs hoped the government would support plight of local councils when it considers the result of a consultation around giving powers to arrest and seize the property and vehicles of those who set up unauthorised caravan sites.

Waste left by travellers at King George Rec
Waste left by travellers at King George Rec

Currently such trespassing is defined in law as a civil matter, but if the legislation is introduced by the government it would become a criminal offence.

Although both affected locations are owned by Totton and Eling Town Council, it is the responsibility of NFDC to issue court proceedings.

Mr Biggs added: “All councils in this country have had a nightmare. We need a concerted effort to say, ‘We’re not putting up with this’.”

Cllr David Harrison, from Totton, called the situation “a very frustrating merry-go-round” and called for more support for travellers to settle legally.

He said: “I maintain the view that this will continue to happen all the time that there is inadequate provision for travellers with sites they can stay at.

“However, I know that a lot of people don't accept that society has any duty to provide for people who decide they want to ‘opt out’ of settled community life. It's all incredibly short sighted.”

NFDC confirmed it had no facilities for travellers, and has had none for at least 20 years. It said any action against groups must first involve a welfare assessment before entering court proceedings.

Asked why resolutions can take some time, a spokesperson said: “The process entails a number of steps which form part of a legal process and are out of the control of the council.”

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