Authorities “frightened” to deal with travellers

LOCAL authorities are “frightened” to take action to deal with travelling people, a Montrose woman claimed this week.

Alison Williamson said that a group of travellers currently encamped on common land at the East Links were moved on by Angus Council and the police but returned recently after a short absence.

Mrs Williamson, who lives near the links, added that the number of travellers has since grown and there is now what amounts to “a small village”.

She also objects to them “careering” across the links with a pony and trap as well as to the mess their horses leave.

The links area has been a regular and popular stopping-off point for travelling people over the last 10 or 11 years.

She said: “The ones with the horse came about three weeks ago. They were there for 10 days and were then moved. Two weeks later they came back and there’s now a small village.

“I’m so angry that they can do that and everybody is frightened to do something about it. I went to the police station to ask what was happening about it and was told that they weren’t allowed to divulge any information.

“I want to know what the procedure is. What do we have to do to stop them parking there? It’s almost as if they own the links.”

A £54,000 plan to enclose the links area with a low barrier and shallow ditch in a bid to deter travellers from setting up camp was put forward by Angus Council two years ago but was later shelved due to concerns over the cost being met from the town’s Common Good Fund.

Mrs Williamson and her husband later approached Montrose Community Council with their own solutions which, they said, would cost a fraction of the council estimate. They also pointed out that what was really needed was a second designated travellers’ site in Angus, in addition to St Christopher’s, although the council has ruled that out.

Unauthorised encampments are managed by a multi-agency panel chaired by the council’s neighbourhood services department and comprising representatives from other departments, as well as Tayside Police and NHS Tayside. Information is collected regarding where they are from, how long they intend staying in they area and if they require to access any services during their stay. The information is then circulated to all partners so services can be delivered.

The council has no powers to immediately move travellers on, but if the encampment does not move on within agreed timescale, the liaison group will agree what action is necessary to resolve the situation.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the encampment in Montrose and will continue to monitor the situation in line with our policies and procedures.”