Dramatic scenes as travellers moved on

THERE were dramatic scenes at Broome this week as a team of 35 police officers moved on to a travellers site beside the bypass to evict the caravan dwellers and their vehicle.

THERE were dramatic scenes at Broome this week as a team of 35 police officers moved on to a travellers site beside the bypass to evict the caravan dwellers and their vehicle.

It took over seven hours for the site, owned by Essex and Suffolk Water, to be cleared after police moved in to evict the group over fears a water supply would be contaminated.

Four police vans of officers and some police motorcyclists arrived at the site at 3.30pm on Wednesday to serve a section 61 notice to the group, requiring them to leave. About 25 caravans had to be moved from the site and police did not leave until 11pm.

But there were recriminations as the travellers said they had not been given enough time to leave the site at Broome Common, and would have moved on within 24 hours. And their liaison officer claimed they had “been chased around a lot.”

But Norfolk police said the group had been approached last week. A spokesperson said: “The travellers were initially visited last week in liaison with the water authority and asked to leave the site. At this time copies of a risk assessment were given to them explaining concerns of contamination to the water supply. Police returned to the site yesterday and the travellers were then formally asked to leave.”

Yesterday one of the travellers, who gave his name only as John, said the group had stayed at a temporary site overnight but would be moving on again later in the day. He said the group had been constantly on the move in recent months. He added: “This lot have had a nightmare winter, an absolute nightmare. It's getting harder to find places.”

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Jon Blunkell, traveller liaison officer for Norfolk County Council, said he did not know where the group had moved to and that they had had a lot of problems finding places to stay. He said: “It is a real problem for this particular group. They have been chased around a lot.”

On Wednesday he said: “We realise the need for robust action but we also need to be pragmatic. They have to be given a realistic timeframe. It makes it difficult. They will end up somewhere else tonight.

“Historically, the police have been criticised for not using their powers, but somewhere there needs to be a balance. We will look back at this and see whether it is successful.”

But he admitted: “The encampment has grown and it is now probably unacceptable. There is a growing consensus it has to go.”

The travellers got in touch with the water company who owned the land and planned to return to the site yesterday to tidy up. John, 42, said: “We just want to clear the rubbish up. I usually hang around at the end picking up every last fag butt. We are messy but we don't leave it behind.”

Altogether the travellers numbered between 30 and 50 on two adjoining sites. The illegal encampment had grown over the course of several months, sparking a small number of local complaints. But landowner Essex and Suffolk Water insisted its land had only been occupied for a fortnight.

The site has boreholes and a shallow aquifer. Essex and Suffolk Water spokesman Monica Greenwood said: “They moved in about two weeks ago. They did not breach our security; they came across Church Commissioners land.

“We did a risk assessment on the water supply which we gave to the police. Our primary concern is for the security of the water supply. They didn't breach that but the police advised us that it would be best to move them on.”