Topsham councillors hit out at travellers for wood mess

PUBLISHED: 12:30 29 May 2016

(c) Adam Gault

Travellers have been blasted by city councillors for the mess they left behind in Topsham’s Millennium Woods.

Around 20 travellers arrived on Friday, May 13, and moved on quickly - but Exeter City Council (ECC) has been left to clean up after them.

Cllr Rob Newby, who represents Topsham, expressed his anger at the situation.

He said: “We sent out council officers to ask the travellers if they needed anything, such as bins for waste, and they disregarded that. We are now going to have to send out officers to clean up the site, which is going to annoy ratepayers.

“If I started dumping rubbish into the hedge across the road from my home, then the council has the right to take me to court.

“But I, like many others, choose to put rubbish into the bins provided by ECC and I don’t understand why travellers won’t abide with society.

“I have been to travellers’ sites before where there has been excrement, which is not pleasant for the people cleaning up the site or members of the public out walking their dogs.”

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter said travellers were not at all welcome in Topsham.

The councillor revealed he would like to work with ECC to prevent travellers from getting into the woods in future.

Exeter City Council saw a 3.1 per cent cut in its spending power from the Government for the last financial year.

The authority’s spending is expected to be just £5million in 2017-2018. In the 2011-2012 financial year, ECC had a budget of £12 million.

Cllr Leadbetter believes ‘scant resources’ should be spent on Topsham residents rather than travellers.

He said: “My message to travellers is not to come to Topsham. It makes me mad that people want to come and damage our countryside and we have to use scant resources to clean up something that is entirely preventable.

“We need to strengthen the barriers in Topsham, so these people can’t get in next time.

“The key is to act quickly, but now the travellers have seen this place, they may try again.

“I share residents’ frustrations, and I’d ask people in Topsham, if they see travellers attempting to set up again, to contact the council or their representatives immediately.”

Cllr Margaret Baldwin said the travellers had been completely ‘inconsiderate’ to hard-pressed residents.

She said: “I always feel angry at the mess and damage caused by most travellers when they camp illegally on open spaces.

“I doubt they give any thought to the cost of the clean-up by ECC or the inconvenience caused to Topsham residents when they take over an area used for recreation.

“Luckily, in this instance, they were moved on before too much damage was caused.”

An Exeter City Council spokesman confirmed the authority would not know the full cost of the clean-up until all of the work was completed.

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