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I know that not everyone will agree with what is written here, however I wanted to share my personal thoughts and opinions on the issue of the Kidsgrove travellers now that they have left the site at Birchenwood for the 3rd time.
Firstly I think that like many I put the blame firmly at the door of Newcastle Borough Council. The first failing in my eyes was allowing the car park to remain unlocked in the evening as part of a cost saving process. This provided the initial invitation for the first visit and well following that first visit, like many Kidsgrove residents, I suspected they would return if no action was taken to prevent access.
No such action was taken, well other than the council changing their policy on gate locking in the evening. There were many people who wanted a height restriction barrier installed on the car park, something that typically does have success in preventing access, however Newcastle Borough Council decided against this option for some reason. If it was cost reasons then this was a strange move given that the cost of the clean up operation is rumoured to be into 5 figures.
Of course this led to the travellers returning for a 2nd time to the site, however access was this time prevented by some plucky local residents who actually blocked the entrance to the car park limiting the occupation of the site to just 4 caravans. Again though it took time and money to evict and clean up the site following their visit and residents lived in hope that surely Newcastle Borough Council would act now to prevent future access?
Sadly we know the answer. We got to experience the 3rd visit of the travellers and this time they decided that they wanted to occupy Birchenwood football fields after a brief stay on the car park. It does appear that the lock was removed from the gate leading down to the fields from the car park, however access would have still been prevented if the gate post remained in place. If this was firmly set in the ground it would make removal more difficult and could have prevented access still in my eyes, due to the narrow entrance.
Now we can’t blame the council for the bizarre decision of the courts to effectively allow the travellers to remain on the site for 3 weeks, however if they had never had access to the site in the first place, then this whole issue would not have arisen. No one is commenting on the cost of the clean up operation this time, however it would be reasonable to assume it will be the most expensive of all of the occupations so far. It is also potentially going to have a massive effect on Kidsgrove Lads and Dads who are relying on the fund raising from this weekends events to keep the organisation operating financially over the coming season.
So who do we blame? Can we really blame the travellers for taking advantage of a farcical “trespass” law which is a civil and not criminal matter. Successive Governments have been asked to change this law, however all seem reluctant for some reason to make the change. There is in effect nothing stopping anyone parking up on council land and claiming trespass - as soon as you do this the Police are no longer involved and the matter becomes a civil case between the land owner.
I believe we can blame Newcastle Borough Council for the constant failings to prevent access to the site, especially after the first visit by the travellers. The cost of a barrier is nothing compared to the cost of eviction and cleaning up the site after the further 2 visits. The fact the finances are being found for this, mean that any financial excuses simply don’t wash with me. The leader of the council Mike Stubbs is also a Kidsgrove Councillor, surely if anyone can apply pressure and get action it would be the leader of the council?
Now we learn that Staffordshire County Councillor Margaret Astle is to use £2000 from her community fund to pay for a barrier. Yes, its great to see that a barrier is finally going to be installed at the site and lets hope this prevents further access. However, I can’t help thinking that someone else is going to still lose out as a result of this £2000 being used from her community fund. Surely this money should be given to community projects and groups and not used to prop up the Borough Council when they claim to not have the funds to protect their own land?
If Newcastle Borough Council is so hard up on money then the Labour controlled council needs to better think about how it can increase revenue or reduce costs.
Clearly these are only my own personal thoughts, opinions and observations from the issue and in no way claim to be fact.
It appears that it could be a case of out of sight, out of mind when it comes to the Newcastle Borough Council clean up of Birchenwood in Kidsgrove.
Most people will have noticed that the council has been focusing on the area of Birchenwood that is visible from the car park, however what about the other areas of Birchenwood that were used by the travellers as a toilet and dumping ground? Well judging by the images that we have been sent it appears these are being neglected and left in the same state that the travellers left them in.
It's not clear why this is the case and maybe Newcastle Borough Council intend to the clean up these areas at a later day, however is this really good enough given that children and residents are using the area on a daily basis? If you have any images or areas of issue to report, please share any images with ourselves via our Facebook or Twitter pages and we shall also pass this on to Newcastle Borough Council.
Kidsgrove Lads and Dads were directly affected by the actions of travellers being parked on football pitches at Birchenwood in Kidsgrove. They had a large football competition that they hold at the start of each season which sees many teams decend on Birchenwood, from 6 different counties all to share their love of football. This event also enables the organisation to raise vital funds to enable it to continue for the whole season.
Kidsgrove Lands and Dads told BBC Radio Stoke yesterday evening that the competition this weekend will go ahead as planned. The council have assured them that they can repair the pitches in time, however surrounding areas where they have been used as a toilet by the travellers could take weeks to clean up. This is something that the council will have to do as the organisation only rents the use of the land off Newcastle Borough Council.
However, Kidsgrove Lads and Dads also said that 30 teams have dropped out of the competition due to the uncertainty regarding this tournament, this is something that will have a financial impact on the organisation. Speaking on BBC Radio Stoke it was suggested that this could leave the organisation short financially for this coming season and are calling on any organisations to speak to them to see what opportunities exist.
It has not been a positive story in the history of Kidsgrove with the travellers setting up camp for the 3rd time on Birchenwood Fields. However, despite all of this last night was one of those times when the Kidsgrove community makes you immensely proud to come from the area. It demonstrated visually to any councillors who dared show their face how much public anger there was against their failings.
The court order to leave Birchenwood fields should have come into action at 7pm on Sunday evening, however this came and went with little sign of movement from the travellers. There were increasing crowds growing, with Kidsgrove residents descending on mass to “see off” the travellers from the site. Mount Road was becoming congested as cars lined both sides of the road and reports suggesting up to 400 people were waiting to see enforcement action taken.
However once again residents feared they were going to be left disappointed and the travellers scoring another “goal” against the Labour controlled Newcastle Borough Council. There was talk that the travellers were not leaving the site and the council would instead have to go back to court in the morning (today) to get an enforcement order.
The mood was very tense and not helped by the Policing, who many complained as being arrogant, abrupt and unhelpful. There were also comments made about how the Police can spend hours (they attended from 4pm onwards) in Kidsgrove, yet went people call them it can take days to respond.
Rumours started to fly around at 8.30pm that they would be leaving the site this evening, which again brought about an increase in the size of the crowd descending on Birchenwood. At 9.30pm there started to be some action with the first of the travellers starting to leave the site, this continued through until around 10.45pm. The reports suggested that some headed towards the A500 at Talke, whilst others were heading up Kidsgrove Bank, it is not known where they have gone now but it has been suggested they must be fairly local.
This morning the site is now clear with a concrete block in place preventing access to the right hand side of the car park. It is not clear yet if Kidsgrove Lad and Dads will be able to hold their football competition next weekend, as clearly the council will now set about clearing and cleaning the site. This cost will be another footed by the tax payer and no doubt the council will be reluctant to share this figure with the public. If the football tournament doesn’t take place, who will make up the suggested £7,000 loss in funds to the organisation?
It is clear residents feel let down by the Labour controlled council, of which the council leader Mike Stubbs is also a Kidsgrove Councillor. The political game is now starting to be played as BBC Radio Stoke was told this morning the soon to be installed barrier has been paid for from a Labour County Councillors fund, however given the mood we detect this could be too little, too late for some of our elected members.
It has been a great shame that it has taken something like this to unite the area and bring back interest in local issues, however let’s now hope that finally the council is starting to learn and the fields at Birchenwood can return to their usual state as a recreational ground.
7pm was the time that the court order became active for the travellers to leave the Birchenwood site in Kidsgrove. However at 7pm only a few of the travellers had left the site. At the same time a large number of local residents from Kidsgrove and surrounding areas had decended on Birchenwood to see the travellers off the site.
At 8.30pm we have been sent some live photos from the site which shows what is happening, 1 hour and 30mins after the council should have been able to enforce their court order. These images can be seen on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
There is a lot of public upset over the failings of Newcastle Borough Council to properly secure the site from past visits and many residents are planning on giving the Labour controlled council a kicking at the ballot box next year.