Traveller warning in Ashfield

A LEADING Sutton councillor has warned that Skegby had a ‘narrow escape’ after a community of travellers set up camp on a recreation ground.

The group moved on to Healdswood Recreation Ground, off Mansfield Road, at the weekend after allegedly smashing the locks off the park’s gates to gain access.

Ashfield District Council served an enforcement notice for around a dozen caravans on Monday - but by midnight the majority of them had dispersed.

At 8am yesterday, all of the vehicles had left the site.

Coun Jason Zadrozny, whose Sutton North ward includes the recreation ground, says he is relieved the travellers’ stay was cut short - claiming there was potential for more damage if they had remained.

He said: “It’s a warning we need to heed. We need to protect our estates.”

The council, SHARP (Stanton Hill and Healdswood Area Recreation Project) and nearby schools have invested tens of thousands of pounds in the park, which boasts a multi-use games area, an outdoor gym and fitness area.

Although the travellers have now left the site, the council had to carry out a clean-up of the area and this was completed by yesterday lunch time.

Said Coun Zadrozny: “I think we have been lucky in terms of lasting damage like when they were at the Metal Box site. If they had damaged the play equipment, the council would not have the money to rebuild it. The council has cleaned up but we can’t repair thousands of pounds of park equipment.”

The Liberal Democrat councillor also revealed that he was bombarded with calls from villagers when news of the travellers’ arrival spread through the community on Sunday evening.

“I have never had so many phone calls from local residents about any issue in such a short space of time,” he said.

“We have got proper sites allocated and when they start by breaking and entering, it is not acceptable.”

Yesterday, one nearby resident said she had only found out about them when her partner had walked to the shop.

She said: “They were queuing down the street to get in. He said they were coming on to the park and then when we got up on Monday we saw the police were there.”

A council spokesman said the swift action to move on the travellers has been a success.

Said the spokesman: “The council’s action to remove the travellers who were unlawfully occupying Healdswood Recreation Ground followed a co-ordinated approach involving its private sector enforcement team and cleansing teams who were supported by Nottinghamshire Police.

“There is no doubt that this combined effort contributed significantly to the early departure of the travellers.

“The police were aware prior to the incident of the non-availability of community protection officers and had made contingency arrangements. Accordingly, resources were in place to ensure the operation was effective.”