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24 travellers' caravans pitch up at Grange Paddocks

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Travellers on the fields at Grange Paddocks (9074458)
Travellers on the fields at Grange Paddocks (9074458)

For the sixth day in a row, East Herts Council is dealing with an issue of traveller occupation in the district.

A convoy of caravans and motor homes started to arrive at Grange Paddocks in Bishop's Stortford on Tuesday evening (April 23). Police and East Herts Council officers and councillors were soon on the scene.

Initially, the travellers were parked in car park B, but a section of wooden fencing in the corner of the car park was removed to enable them to get onto the sports pitches.

The fencing that was removed to enable the travellers to get onto the fields (9074461)
The fencing that was removed to enable the travellers to get onto the fields (9074461)

On Wednesday morning, there were 24 caravans and camper vans in all, plus associated cars, 4x4s and vans on the fields, which are owned by East Herts Council.

A security officer in a car kept watch on the encampment overnight, and police and council officers were on scene.

An EHC spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the unauthorised encampment at Grange Paddocks and are working with the police to deal with the situation. Grange Paddocks leisure centre remains open as usual."

A Bishop's Stortford councillor was told by police on Tuesday evening that the travellers were en route to the funeral of a member of the travelling community in Ware.

Travellers on the fields at Grange Paddocks (9074456)
Travellers on the fields at Grange Paddocks (9074456)

It is the sixth day in a row that travellers have caused consternation in East Herts.

Little Hadham was the first to face the unwelcome visitors. Police were alerted to travellers’ occupation of a field off Chapel Lane, near Westland Green, soon after 8.30am on Good Friday.

They started to build a road across the land, which is said to have been sold last month for £3,000. EHC issued stop notices to prevent any further work at the site.

On Saturday morning, the authority stepped up its response when the order was ignored and instructed a barrister to obtain an injunction, which was served at 5.30pm.

The travellers were ordered to vacate the land immediately and restore the site within seven days, but so far there is no sign of compliance.

Villagers’ photos showed men operating heavy machinery, including a digger, as they built the road, and lorries were pictured carrying hardcore up and down Chapel Lane.

Cllr Geoffrey Williamson, the EHC member for the Little Hadham ward, said on Friday: “It transpires the travellers bought this field a short while ago. East Herts Council has been working all day on this, but as they are on their own private land we have no powers to evict.”

One villager told the Indie on Saturday: “It has been reported that travellers are digging up the public highway in order to illegally access utilities and direct them onto the site.

“Trees and shrubbery have been damaged in the process to build a road, in a conservation area. Noise has been incessant since the construction work began.”

Residents feared up to 50 families were due to move in. A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said that the force was continuing to make “reassurance patrols”.

In Bishop's Stortford on Easter Monday afternoon, the first of a group of 13 caravans and motor homes moved onto two grass pitches off Dunmow Road, by the roundabout junction with Parsonage Lane, after a gate was taken off its hinges.

Birchwood High School head Dr Chris Ingate said on Tuesday: “I visited each of the parked caravans this afternoon with several members of Hertfordshire Constabulary after school. I have served an eviction letter to each. This is the first step.

“They have tentatively agreed to move on tomorrow [Wednesday]. Police have said that failure to do so will lead to a Section 61 eviction, which is legally binding and can lead to forceful eviction.”

Travellers who bought a site in Birchanger last July are currently appealing against enforcement action by Uttlesford District Council.

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