THURROCK Council has slammed Essex Police for not taking action over travellers that have illegally moved onto Belhus Park in Aveley.

It’s estimated up to 100 travellers vehicles are at the park after originally setting up camp at Lakeside Sports Ground, off Arterial Road, on Friday afternoon. Police went to the ground after being told and issued the travellers with a section 61 order to leave – which they did.

The travellers then moved to Belhus where they’ve been since.

The council are also unhappy with the Met Police amid rumours they escorted the travellers from Dagenham to the Thurrock border.

The council’s interim chief executive David Bull, has asked Essex’s Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason what action his force is planning regarding the illegal incursion in Aveley.

Essex Police said not letting the caravans on the Belhus site would've been a safety risk.

Mr Bull said: “The police took action when the travellers invaded the sports ground at Lakeside, although damage was done and the council will be working with the leaseholders to get the pitches back into a usable state as soon as possible.

“However, the police did not use their powers at Belhus. I want to know what is different.”

He has made it clear to Essex Police the council and the police should stand shoulder-to-shoulder and agree lessons learned to improve co-operative working in future.

Mr Bull added: “As soon as the council was made aware of the likelihood of a traveller incursion on Friday, we started informing people, using social media as well as calling them direct – as well as barricading vulnerable council sites.

“We did try to contact everyone as quickly as possible and that is something we should look at for improvements, as well as investigating whether communication between the two police forces and between the police and ourselves was as efficient as it should have been.”

Councillor Jane Pothecary, in charge of public protection, said she’ll be writing to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Essex Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh asking for assurances that their two forces communicated and co-operated during Friday’s operation to remove travellers from Dagenham.

She said: “I cannot believe the rumours that the Met simply escorted the travellers to the London-Thurrock border and let them go are true.”

She added: “I will also be asking Mr Kavanagh why they used their powers to move the travellers on from the Lakeside site, but did not do so at Belhus Park – it was the same people and the same issues, surely it should have been the same actions?

“There are other issues we need to look at as well. When the travellers were removed from Lakeside, were they followed to Belhus; why were they not prevented from accessing either site; and what powers do the police have to prevent these incursions, for example.”

A statement from Essex Police said: “Police were alerted on Friday afternoon that Travellers had set up an unauthorised encampment on the football pitch at Lakeside Sports Ground. Officers went to the site and served the Travellers with a section 61 notice informing them they had to leave, which they did.

“On Friday evening officers went to Belhus Park at Aveley following reports that Travellers had gained access to a field there and were setting up an unauthorised encampment.

“On arrival officers found vehicles and caravans on the land already, with others continuing to arrive. Having assessed the number of officers immediately available to assist given other emergency incidents, the poor weather conditions, the continued movement of a large number of vehicles and the presence of children, it was decided that trying to prevent vehicles from accessing the site would have created a significant risk to the safety of everyone.

“There are no legal powers to prevent an unauthorised encampment from forming so police stayed at the location and used body worn video to record the activities of those arriving.

“Criminal investigations will take place into any damage caused or other offences reported at either location and we will look to prosecute any individuals responsible. The Travellers have been spoken to and we are continuing to monitor the location with regular patrols around the area.

“When an unauthorised Traveller encampment like this occurs there are a number of agencies which have a role to play in responding to the situation; including the landowner, the local authority and the police.

“Officers are in the process of contacting those responsible for the land, believed to be a private company which leases the land from Thurrock Council, to establish how they wish to proceed and we understand the Travellers have been given notice to leave.

“We will continue to monitor the site and speak to all parties involved until the issue is resolved.”

The Met police have been contacted for comment.