South Gloucestershire Council says it is working hard to clear Yate and Sodbury commons of travellers
A ROW has broken out between people living near Yate Common where a group of travellers have set up an illegal camp and South Gloucestershire Council which owns the land.
Residents say they complained to the authority that gate locks, at the entrance from the Road to Nowhere, were cut nearly two months ago but last Monday (July 29) eight caravans were towed on to the common. Several families also moved on to Sodbury Common at the same time.
Chairman of the Friends of Yate Common, Lin Kendall, told the Gazette: "We are spitting blood. In June we reported that someone had cut the bars to the gate and had put some bricks behind it to make it look as though it was shut.
"We have sent emails to the vast majority of people at the council who deal with the common and have had nothing back. They are not interested."
Mrs Kendall, who joined one of Yate's biggest ever public campaigns against the Road to Nowhere becoming an official travellers’ site following a government recommendation in 2005, said she had avoided walking her dog on the part of the 128-acre site the travellers are occupying for the past week.
"They have been seen by people up by the Road to Nowhere using the common as toilets," said the 67-year-old.
"Rightly so people moan about dog mess but surely human waste could be just as dangerous? Is the council going to clear up all their waste because otherwise it is going to be a long time before we can use it again?
"It just doesn’t feel fair. We can’t go over there and park our caravans. I am fed up with the council. It is about time they made a stand."
However, South Gloucestrshire Council said although a padlock and drop bollard had previously been damaged on one of the gates, they had been repaired and the authority believed the travellers actually gained access to Yate Common via a different gate.
A spokesman added: "The council is aware of the circumstances at both Yate Common and Sodbury Common and is working according to established procedures to negotiate with the families concerned to move on. We are working hard to resolve the situation as soon as possible and hope to have both sites cleared in the very near future.
“As soon as the families have vacated Yate Common, the council will immediately secure the land and carry out a clean up operation.”
The Road to Nowhere is owned by South Gloucestershire Council and is designated common land under the Criminal Justice Act, meaning it would need approval from the Secretary of State to be used for anything other than public open space.
But Sally Woodbury, of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, said until official sites were provided it was inevitable travellers would find land to use.
She added: "It is important to distinguish between the different types of gypsies and travellers. Programmes like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding do not help at all and people would do well to go and talk to these people rather than just go by what they see on TV."
She said South Gloucestershire Council was 'doing its best' to meet the need for sites in the district.
"Councils can't do anything because local people won't let them, they all say not in my back yard," she added. "But until councils do something these illegal encampments will continue."
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