Dump­ing ground

Coun­cil work­ers find hu­man waste left by trav­ellers on Mote Park

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke May lmay@thek­m­group.co.uk

Mounds of rub­bish in­clud­ing clothes, nap­pies and even hu­man waste were left be­hind fol­low­ing the il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of Maid­stone’s Mote Park by a group of trav­ellers. More than a dozen car­a­vans ar­rived at the site last Mon­day, re­fus­ing to move on un­til the bor­ough coun­cil was able to get a court or­der this week. Now the park is empty once again, but coun­cil work­ers in con­tam­i­na­tion suits spent yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day) clean­ing up the mess left be­hind - an op­er­a­tion which is ex­pected to last sev­eral days.

The en­camp­ment comes as fig­ures re­veal Maid­stone has the sec­ond high­est num­ber of reg­is­tered trav­eller car­a­vans in the UK.

The Gypsy Coun­cil has hit out at the au­thor­ity, say­ing more needs to be done to pro­vide le­gal sites for the gypsy and trav­eller com­mu­ni­ties to use.

It could take days to clear mounds of rub­bish dumped at Mote Park af­ter a trav­eller en­camp­ment was moved on this week, the coun­cil says.

More than a dozen car­a­vans spent seven days in the park - even­tu­ally leav­ing on Tues­day. But as coun­cil work­ers clean the mess left be­hind, in­clud­ing piles of nap­pies, wood and hu­man waste, the Gypsy Coun­cil has said more needs to be done to pro­vide per­ma­nent, le­gal sites for gypsy and trav­eller com­mu­ni­ties. Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics (ONS), Maid­stone has the sec­ond largest trav- eller com­mu­nity in the coun­try with just shy of 600 car­a­vans cur­rently reg­is­tered in the bor­ough.

Of those, 156 car­a­vans are cur­rently on unau­tho­rised sites and be­ing “tol­er­ated” by the coun­cil.

These car­a­vans are set up on land owned by trav­ellers but have not been given plan­ning per­mis­sion and are there­fore deemed unau­tho­rised sites.

Joseph Jones from the Gypsy Coun­cil said: “The coun­cil says it’s got a five year sup­ply of sites, but the fig­ures don’t add up. If they have the sup­ply, why are there 150 car­a­vans with­out plan­ning per­mis­sion?

“It causes prob­lems among the set­tled com­mu­nity be­cause they look at trav­ellers stay­ing some­where with­out plan­ning per­mis­sion and it cre­ates a sense of un­fair­ness. Ev­ery time there’s a trav­eller en­camp­ment ev­ery­one says ‘look what these gyp­sies are up to’, but they’re of­ten on this land be­cause there are no suit­able sites.”

Last Mon­day half a dozen car­a­vans moved onto the park, later joined by eight more. A coun­cil or­der to va­cate was ig­nored. A sec­ond was served on Mon- day, and by Tues­day the trav­ellers had moved on. Since 2011 Maid­stone Bor­ough Coun­cil has granted per­mis­sion to 146 car­a­van pitches. The au­thor­ity de­clined to com­ment on the ONS fig­ures. The gypsy and trav­el­ling com­mu­ni­ties re­tain a strong link to Kent where they were his­tor­i­cally em­ployed as sea­sonal work­ers on farms in Kent.

The group of trav­ellers who camped on Mote Park last week left the site look­ing like a rub­bish tip

Coun­cil work­ers in con­tam­i­na­tion suits set about clean­ing up the rub­bish

Trav­ellers be­gin to move out of Mote Park un­der su­per­vi­sion by Maid­stone coun­cil en­force­ment of­fi­cers, left, and right, some of the rub­bish left be­hind

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