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Travellers pitch up on to Labworth car park
2:00pm Tuesday 10th September 2013 in Local News
TOWN leaders are furious “naive” council and police officers did not act firmly to move on travellers who ruined trade on the last busy weekend of summer.
They arrived at Labworth car park, in Furtherwick Road, on Thursday night after being moved on from Southend.
They told council officers they had arrived for a pilgrimage to Ilford and would be gone by Saturday morning, but they didn’t leave until yesterday afternoon and have since been blamed for allegedly stealing food, smashing a window at the new Spar store in Eastern Esplanade and intimidating customers.
Dave Blackwell, independent Castle Point councillor for Canvey, said: “It was horrendous. They went to the supermarket, rushed out and didn’t pay for food. It was the same in a fish and chip shop.
Children pinched sweets from the market and they caused trouble by the amusements.
“Traders said they had constant harassment which ruined their trade. The travellers even locked themselves in to the car park with a chain around the gate, at one stage, so no one could get to the car park.
“These people rely on this weekend trade and there was no action or help from the police.
“Officers naively believed they would go on Saturday. Travellers know Castle Point is a soft touch, it beggars belief.”
Last month, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities, issued guidelines for councils to follow informing them of their powers to move illegal travellers.
The rules include temporary stop notices to stop and remove unauthorised caravans and possession orders to remove trespassers from land.
A Castle Point Council spokesman said: “When travellers arrived in the car park late Thursday night, council staff did everything required to gauge the situation. They visited on Friday and the travellers told us they were on their way to a pilgrimage in Ilford and would be gone by the end of the weekend.
“As they were not in the usual mode of transport–caravans towed by trucks – we rightly presumed they were not here to work.
“Two of the motorhomes left on Friday night and the remainder by Monday.
“Had they not vacated the car park on Monday we would have started legal proceedings, but the measures advocated by Eric Pickles would not have served this situation.”
Castle Point’s policing district commander, Chief Insp Ian Cummings, said officers assessed whether there was an immediate risk of significant financial harm, antisocial behaviour or crime as well as the impact on the community.
He added: “The powers available to police are for emergency use only and cannot be utilised to circumvent or short-cut any local authority or legal process.”