Sidmouth residents speak of traveller 'trauma'

TRAVELLERS, who set up home in a Sidmouth field earlier this month, left local residents frightened and traumatised , the Herald has been told.

TRAVELLERS, who set up home in a Sidmouth field earlier this month, left local residents "frightened" and "traumatised", the Herald has been told.

Higher Woolbrook Park residents have described how they saw caravan-dwellers brandish an air rifle, light petrol-fuelled bonfires, hack down greenery with a chainsaw, and used the field as an "open toilet" during a seven-night stay at on privately-owned land off Bulverton Road, which ended on May 1.

Police said the land-owner was taking necessary steps through the county court to have the travellers removed before they upped sticks- leaving a caravan, gas canisters and garden waste was amongst a "load of rubbish" strewn across the field.

A Higher Woolbrook Park home-owner, who did not want to be named, said he and neighbours were "frightened" to use their gardens or walk their dogs during the stint and had to keep their windows shut as fuel was poured onto a "huge" bonfire every night.

He said: "A motor cycle was also being ridden around the field until 10pm each day.

"The field was used as an open toilet- they were dropping their trousers and doing their business in full view of houses and walkers.

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"On April 25, two men, one carrying a rifle with a telescopic sight, walked around the field and along the disused railway line behind our gardens."

The resident voiced concerns over East Devon District Council's (EDDC) interest in using land less than a mile away, at the Bowd, as an official site for gypsies and travellers.

He said: "If three caravans with travellers can leave so much mess and traumatise the local community then the council (EDDC) then the council needs to give very serious consideration to where any future legal travellers' site is located, with regard to the wellbeing of the local population."

Sidmouth police sergeant Andy Turner said that when travellers occupy private land, the onus is on the land-owner to act through the county court to get them off.

He said: "In these cases Police will deal with any breach of the peace. There are circumstances we can (remove the travellers), but there is a rigid criteria which needs to be met for us to be involved.