RESIDENTS have condemned councillors for spending thousands of pounds on a fence and lockable gate to keep travellers off a community centre car park after they returned earlier this week.

Last year Blackburn with Darwen borough invested almost £10,000 putting up the barriers at Green Lane Community Centre in Meadowhead after repeated incursions by caravans on the site.

On Monday night two returned and by Tuesday morning this had doubled to four enraging dad-of-five Greg Riley who lives opposite the centre in Green Lane.

He said: “They have just wasted the money. Local councillors made a great play of how the new fence and gate would stop the travellers coming.

“All that has happened is they lock the gate each evening and open it in the morning stopping local people and their friends and relatives using the area to park their own cars. Now the travellers are back and to add insult to injury they left the gate unlocked so two more could come on overnight. They might just as well have burnt the thousands of pounds in notes outside the centre for all the good it has done.”

Meadowhead Conservative councillor Konrad Tapp said: “The new fencing has kept the travellers away for several months and off the football pitch. The gate was left unlocked at the request of the police.

“We need to get the caravans off and then see what we can do to further improve security.”

Labour ward colleague Ashley Whalley said: “I disagree that we wasted money. It has kept the travellers away and the work around the back of the centre secured the football pitch. We need to look at what more can be done but we can’t lock it up 24 hours a day.”

Council leisure director Martin Eden said: “The installation of the fence and barrier came with the full support of the local community after many complaints when travellers entered the site last summer. More travellers arrived on Monday at 5.10pm, which is disappointing, but the gate can only be locked when the centre is closed at the end of each day. We could add a height barrier but this would deny some accessible minibus users access to the car park.”

The council working to remove the travellers and papers are being prepared to get a court date.