Travellers have sparked outrage in Mirfield – and a hastily-arranged public meeting.
A group of travellers have been camped on Old Bank Rec in Old Bank Road for over a week but last night several moved off.
They didn’t go far and pitched up at a children’s play area – known as Rocket Park – in nearby Stocks Bank Road.
Local residents say they saw a padlock being forced off the gate and travellers move in.
On Sunday morning there were seven caravans on the Kirklees Council-owned land.
According to posts on Facebook group Mirfield Matters local people contacted police as the travellers moved in but to no avail.
Furious at the lack of police action Mirfield town councillor Clr Paul Blakeley called a public meeting at the Airedale Heifer pub in Stocks Bank Road at 4pm today (Sunday).
Mirfield Tory councillor Martyn Bolt, who last week called for tougher police action against travellers, sent an e-mail to West Yorkshire’s acting chief constable Dee Collins and police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson expressing concerns over the “apparent lack of police action towards a criminal group.”
He said residents saw a man breaking the lock off a security barrier to allow the travellers access which he said “breaks several criminal laws.”
He said then travellers then set up “residence” again breaking more laws. That was followed, he added, by anti-social behaviour that was likely to lead to a breach of the peace.
Insp Jenny Thompson, of the Dewsbury and Mirfield Neighbourhood Policing Team, visited Rocket Park late on Sunday morning and spoke to the travellers.
By coincidence an Examiner reporter arrived at the same time.
As he took pictures of the play area he was confronted by two travellers who accused him of taking pictures of their children.
The two men got out of a 4x4 vehicle and were threatening and abusive towards him.
They pointed to his car and said: “We have your car number. We will find out where you live and come and get you. You will be hurt.”
The reporter walked away and waited some distance down the road and spoke to police officers who had come over after hearing the commotion.
The reporter told police he wanted to make an official complaint.
In mid-afternoon the travellers left Rocket Park but the meeting will still go ahead.
Meanwhile, in Dewsbury on Friday police used powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to move travellers from the playing fields of Shaw Cross Sharks in Leeds Road, Shaw Cross.
A rugby gala was due to take place the following day and police issued a Section 61 notice ordering them to move, which they did.
In the Examiner last week Clr Bolt criticised the police for not using Section 61 often enough.
Chief Supt Steve Cotter, of Kirklees Police, said: “Section 61 powers are normally only used for land such as school playing fields during the school term or a cemetery, where the impact to local communities is significant, which would not necessarily be the case with this land at Shaw Cross.
“However, officers liaised with partner agencies including the rugby club and Kirklees Council to assess the community impact and considered the welfare of all involved.
“It was apparent that there would be significant disruption to the community if the travellers remained on this site, as the Leeds Road Rugby Gala was due to take place, which would bring an excess of 700 people on the site. The decision was therefore made to issue the Section 61 notice.”