Council workers find human waste left by travellers on Mote Park
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