Town council to spend £25,000 to stop illegal traveller camps

Melford Common. Picture: Conor Matchett

Melford Common. Picture: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

A council is set to spend £25,000 to tackle travellers illegally camping on commons.

Barnham Cross Common. Picture: Conor Matchett

Barnham Cross Common. Picture: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

Thetford Town Council has applied for permission from the secretary of state for environment to install 700m of bollards, locakable access barriers, and removable height barriers at Barnham Cross Common, Melford Common and Castle Park in the town.

A designated picnic area in the north car park of Barnham Cross will also be put in place in an attempt to prevent litter being dropped across the wider site.

More than £4,000 was spent on legal costs and clean-up fees by the council on just one illegal encampment on Barnham Cross Common earlier this year.

The council's application to the secretary of state lists concerns including intimidation, loose dogs, damage to car parks, and the introduction of alien species to the common which is a site of special scientific interest.

Barnham Cross Common. Picture: Conor Matchett

Barnham Cross Common. Picture: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

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The application says: 'All commons and open ground in and around the Thetford area have been subject to establishment of unauthorised traveller encampments at one time or another over recent years.

'This has led to legitimate visitors being prevented from visiting the sites by intimidation, loose dogs, vehicles etc.'

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It continues: 'It has not only led to expensive clean up operations for debris left from traveller operations and works but also introduction of alien species to Barnham Cross Common that is mostly designated as a SSSI.

'Access during periods of wet ground has also led to damage of the sites. Legitimate visitors to Barnham Cross Common have endured wet ground and damaged surfaces across the three car park areas.'

The work aims to use the £5,000 a year budget already in place to deal with the aftermath of illegal encampments to prevent them from happening in the first place.

A spokesman for the council said: 'We are going to phase it in over five years. We will start with Barnham Cross Common and Castle Park and then move on to Melford Common.'

In October 2017, the council consulted the public on potential access restrictions on the common, with 81pc of respondents backing the plans to install a height barrier restriction on the large car park on Barnham Cross Common.

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