A second group of Travellers has arrived in Chester but police have given them until 3pm today (Friday June 19) to vacate playing fields in an upmarket area of the city.
Irish Travellers descended on the Wealstone Lane field, Upton, last night (Thursday) as parish councillors were in the middle of a site visit. Cllr Jean Evans immediately rang police and today officers issued ‘Direction to leave land’ notices to the occupants of four caravans whose vehicles could be forcibly removed if they fail to comply.
Meanwhile, Travellers who arrived overnight on Monday on council land adjacent to Chester FC ground appear to be in deadlock with police. An order has been served following a court hearing instigated by Cheshire West and Chester Council, which requires the site to be vacated by 2.30pm today (Friday), but the Irish Travellers have told The Chronicle they are not moving until Cheshire Police hand over a van that has been seized.
One of the Travellers from the Wealstone Lane site, Mary McDonagh, 30, a mother-of-four young children, said: “We are members of the travelling community. There’s a lot of young kids. It’s summer time. We’re all travelling but the police are taking away our culture. We’ve went on council property so we wouldn’t be a nuisance to the local businesses. We want a few days. We don’t want to be getting kicked off every single day.”
Mrs McDonagh, who said there was no choice other than to move on at 3pm as requested, claimed there was a shortage of official sites and a nearby site at Ellesmere Port was “full”.
“We were here five years ago and this never happened,” added the Traveller spokeswoman, who explained her people’s love for the open road. “It’s our culture. It’s our blood. A house is a prison, four walls. This is our freedom. I was born at the side of a road. I wasn’t even born in a hospital.”
The Traveller, who said the access gate was “wide open” when they arrived, promised any rubbish would be bagged up.
Upton parish councillor Brenda Southward was at the field when the Travellers arrived.
She said: “I was at Wealstone Lane field with two other parish councillors having a site meeting when we were suddenly surrounded by Travellers in caravans and vans. Cllr Jean Evans rang the police immediately and an officer came but as you know theres not a lot you can do. By the time we left there were at least five caravans there making themselves at home.”
Meanwhile, three young males at the Traveller site near Chester FC ground told The Chronicle they had been arrested and questioned all day on Wednesday. They said police blamed them for forcing a barrier to gain entry to the patch of ground, which they adamantly deny and over one of their vans being involved in a crime, which again they deny. The Travellers remain unhappy, saying police had seized the van. If the van was returned they would be prepared to move on. The group denied being responsible for rubbish strewn around the area and suspect other people have dumped it there.
Conditions were not ideal as they were having to use a nearby field because they did not have proper toilet facilities.
Cheshire Police spokesman Daniel Hinde said: “We can confirm that a van was seized from an address on Bumpers Lane on Wednesday June 17 in relation to a suspected theft. Three men were also arrested on suspicion of theft, they have all been released on police bail until July 10, 2015.
“A section 78 order has been served, which requires the site to be vacated later today (Friday).”