Travellers set up camp at Preston's Capitol Centre Park and Ride

A large contingent of Travellers have set up camp at the Capitol Centre in Walton-le-Dale.

Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 12:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 1:40 pm
The Capitol Centre Park and Ride car park in Walton-le-Dale.
The Capitol Centre Park and Ride car park in Walton-le-Dale.

The convoy, which is understood to number approximately 12 caravans and mobile homes, arrived on the site yesterday morning (Monday December 3).

Council officers visited the site yesterday afternoon and gave the families 24 hours to leave the site.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: "We are aware of this matter and we expect that they should be moving today."

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Council powers

The Government announced in April that it was reviewing council powers to tackle random traveller encampments. But, as yet, no legislation has been brought forward to give local authorities more muscle to evict visitors quickly from their land.

The then housing minister Dominic Raab said: “The vast majority of the travelling community are decent law-abiding people. But we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments and some of the anti-social behaviour they can give rise to.

“We must promote a tolerant society and make sure legal sites are available for travellers, but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone.”

As things stand, evicting travellers from a council-owned site like the Capitol Centre can turn into a long, complicated and frustrating process.

To apply for a court order the authority has to show the travellers are on the land without permission. The time it takes depends on when a court hearing can be held, although it is usually a week before all the necessary paperwork is in place to serve an eviction notice.

Groups of travellers regularly stop off in the Preston area, especially during summer.

Travellers courted controversy when they set up camp in Moor Park twice in 2016 and Penwortham Holme sports field in August last year.

Vehicles churned up the football pitches so badly that junior clubs were forced to write off practically a whole season while the surface was repaired by South Ribble Council.

Around 200 children at under-7 and under-8 level were affected.

At the time cabinet member Graham Walton said: “They have trashed the pitches. It’s just disgusting really.

“I’ve been a councillor for 12 years and we are having the same problem over and over again. We are lacking a law to stop this from happening.”