Ashfield council leader hits out at 'criminal' traveller encampments in district

Councillor Helen-Ann Smith and Coun Jason Zadrozny.
Councillor Helen-Ann Smith and Coun Jason Zadrozny.

The leader of Ashfield District Council has hit out at "criminal" traveller encampments who continue to pitch up on the district's parks - calling for more action from the police.

Councillor Jason Zadrozny called for more police enforcement after another camp pitched up in Skegby - having recently seen other traveller encampments in Sutton, Kirkby and Hucknall.

Fury had already been expressed about a camp which is in place in Hucknall, with politicians including the town's MP Mark Spencer hitting out at "litter, vandalism and even residents being intimidated and assaulted" by the camp.

And now the Ashfield council leader is calling for Nottinghamshire Police to act quick and prevent what he describes is "clearly criminal damage", as a camp which had been moved off Hardwick Lane "smashed open" gates at Skegby's Healdswood Recreation Ground.

Coun Zadrozny wants a "tough" stance from police and "additional patrols" to make sure residents "can feel safe".

"The travellers have moved around again. We've got them in Hucknall still where they've just moved to Wigwam Lane, and now in Skegby where they've smashed open one of our gates and got access to the recreation ground.

"I'm a bit disappointed because some of our opponents are trying to points score by saying the council hasn't put forward a strong enough, solid iron gate on, instead of pointing fingers at the criminals who have broken this gate.

"That's one of our biggest problems. The police aren't treating this as criminal damage, which is clearly what it is.

"They've smashed open the gates to gain access and unlawfully use our parks.

"We take a tough stance on this, we've already had our legal team working on this to get a court order put in place to take action, and we've raised with the police to say we want additional patrols."

Councillor Helen-Ann Smith, who is county councillor for the Skegby area, says she has also been working to ensure parents at nearby Healdswood Infant and Nursery School, feel safe "going to and from school" as the new term begins.

She said: "I've been working closely with our community protection team from Ashfield council to ensure that, during school times where parents are walking children to and from nursery, the CPOs will be on duty.

"We will ensure they are patrolling through Healdswood Recreation Ground making sure parents and children feel safe going to and from school."

Inspector Craig Hall said: "We are aware of an unauthorised traveller encampment on Healdswood Recreation Ground and have I have directed patrols in the area by both uniformed and plain clothed officers.

"Although some members of the local community have contacted us to raise concerns about the traveller’s presence, there have been no specific complaints of criminality from either the local or travelling community to date.

"We are working in partnership with Ashfield District Council who are doing a great job of managing the situation both professionally and efficiently have served notice requiring the travellers to vacate the land.

"We are supporting the council’s efforts by putting targeted patrols in place in order to help to keep the area safe for everyone until lawful processes have taken place. We will of course take any reports of crimes seriously should we receive them."