A PUB was forced to close after it was invaded by travellers who began helping themselves to punters’ drinks.

The Bell, in Prince Avenue, Southend, was temporarily closed as five police cars and a dog unit turned up to escort about 30 travellers from the premises at about 5pm on Sunday.

The pub had been warned by police that travellers were heading its way after being moved on from Canvey.

Barman John Jiggins started noticing caravans arriving at the pub shortly after the call.

Mr Jiggins, 29, said: “Essex Police phoned here to say they were on their way up and we might want to prepare and, as soon as we put the phone down, they started coming in.

“They started taking people’s drinks off the tables, sitting down where they wanted and cheering and swearing outside.

“It was distressing for us as staff and customers, who were intimidated by it.

“It was stressful, but we all pulled together to get the situation under control before it got out of hand – which it would have if the police hadn’t turned up.”

On the seafront, traders took matters into their own hands to protect their businesses and prevent travellers from camping on car parks.

Peter Grubb, owner of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, decided to shut Shoebury Common car park himself after failing to reach anyone at Southend Council.

He said: “The travellers were going round and round trying to get on Shoebury Common.

“If I hadn’t been there to man the gates, we would have had an invasion at Shoebury.

“The council needs to look at its emergency procedures at the weekend because they are inadequate.”

Martin Richardson, of the Happidrome, used his own padlocks to lock the height barriers, which prevent large vehicles from getting into Seaway Car Park.

He said: “Southend Council knew the travellers were due down there but the barriers were open, so I got four padlocks and fitted them on the height barriers. We have to protect our business.

“They caused thousands of pounds of damage last year.

“Seafront traders were parking their cars sideways in front of a broken bit of fence at the Inner London Group site, only for a council official to eventually turn up and tell us we were breaking the law.

“The police handled it brilliantly, but how could the council have had no contingency plan?”

A police spokesman said: “Police called shortly after 5pm on Sunday, August 31, and asked to attend the Bell Hotel in Prince’s Avenue, Southend, following reports of a disturbance involving about 30 people believed to be from the travelling community.”

A LEADING Southend councillor
says the authority did take action to
tackle the travellers as they arrived
in the borough.
Martin Terry, executive councillor
for public protection, waste and
transport, said council officers
liaised with police throughout the
He added: “It would not have been
appropriate to close Seaway car
park during the day, when it was full
and when you also consider the
police were well aware of the travellers’
movements and in contact
with the council.
“However, we would have
installed the height barriers at the
end of the day, had we needed to. In
the event, that action was not
required as the travellers left by
“While I appreciate the concerns
of the traders, and the work done by
them, I would discourage them from
taking their own action like this.
“This could have led them into
direct conflict and this particular
group had already caused trouble on