Burnley MP hits out at massive clean-up bill as travellers set up illegal camp (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Burnley MP hits out at massive clean-up bill as travellers set up illegal camp
TRAVELLERS who refuse to leave Burnley are costing taxpayers ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ according to the town’s MP.
Gordon Birtwistle said the escalating legal and clean-up bills for moving the groups along were extremely worrying.
One group of around 30 vehicles has just moved to a patch of grass near Tay Street - their third different location in three weeks.
And in recent months at least three other large encampments have been set up around the town.
The latest group arrived two weeks ago in Cog Lane, before being moved on after the council gained a court order.
The group then took over a piece of land next to a children’s play park between Tabor Street and Ighten Road.
Councillor Charlie Briggs said to gain access the travellers must have moved boulders put in place to stop trespassers.
On Wednesday they again moved on to their present location after being served with a possession order.
It is understood that the group has family in the area which is why they have refused to move to another town.
The land they are now on is a cleared area which has been set aside for housing development.
Mr Birtwistle, the borough’s former council leader, said public opinion was against the travellers because of the problems they caused for residents.
He said: “They know what they are doing. They don’t care about the mess they leave behind and they are not good neighbours.
“They are causing hassle and the taxpayers are paying for it.
“Between the legal costs of getting a court order to move them along and the costs of cleaning up after them every time, the council are spending tens of thousands of pounds that could be spent on worthwhile causes.
“It’s not a pleasant job clearing up after them.
“At the minute there doesn’t seem to be a solution other than securing all the sites, which clearly won’t benefit people who actually want to use them.”
In April this year, a large group of travellers was believed to have cut the locks off gates at Hargher Clough Rec in Harold Avenue in order to park their vehicles on a council play area.
That case prompted council chiefs to take the unprecedented step of closing two public car parks in Towneley Park for a weekend to keep them out.
There have also been camps on the council-owned Prairie Playing Fields, on the corner of Windermere Avenue and Colne Road in Reedley.
A spokesman for Burnley Council said: “The council is aware of the group at Pollard Street and action to remove them has commenced.”
Councillor Howard Baker, who represents the Trinity ward where the travellers are currently staying, said the situation was ‘a difficult one’.
He said: “There is no quick answer to this. They have a right to travel but it is frustrating.”
Residents near the latest site had mixed feelings about the latest deluge of caravans nearby.
One man from Howard Street, who asked not to be named, said: “Most people around here are annoyed about it. It looks awful and they do nothing for the area.
“They are occupying car parks and fields that should be used by the local community. No-one else would get away with moving boulders to get on to a play park so why do they?”
But a neighbour on the same street said: “They haven’t really done any harm so far. Maybe if there was more affordable social housing they wouldn’t have to travel.”
The government’s North West of England Plan has made calls for an extra 10 permanent pitches for travellers and five transit pitches in addition to the 15 currently available. The closest one to Burnley is Whinney Hill in neighbouring Hyndburn.
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