Milton Keynes primary school forced to cancel sports day after illegal travellers camp on field
A primary school has been forced to cancel its sports day today after dozens of travellers set up camp illegally on the sports field.
Howe Park primary has always used nearby Emerson Valley School rugby pitch for the popular sports day because its own playground is not big enough.
Last week 10 caravans set up camp on the pitch and ignored an order from the council to move on. They had to be forcibly evicted by police and council officers after three days - leaving behind piles of rubbish.
On Tuesday this week the travellers returned - along with a couple of dozen more caravanss.
“I’ve counted 35 vans . The pitch is full and there’s dogs running everywhere. It’s really quite intimidating,” said one parent.
Sports day was due to be yesterday (Wednesday), But the school sent an email to all parents the evening before to say the event had been cancelled “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
“How do you tell a five-year-old his sports day is cancelled due to travellers?” said one parent. “The council should have stricter rules and regulations to prevent this.”
Another mum said: “All the school kids are devastated. Parents were all prepared and booked days off.”
It is believed the travellers may have come from Tattenhoe, where illegal encampments have been causing chaos over the past few weeks.
Tattenhoe residents, together with Tory ward councillors are urging the council to take out injunctions to protect sites all over MK from travellers.
Meanwhile Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart has raised the growing issue of traveller encampments with ministers.
He said there had been a “worrying increase” in encampments over the past year in Mk, particularly in areas near Tattenhoe and West Bletchley. Residents have been calling on both Milton Keynes Council and Thames Valley Police to take more action.
Mr Stewart has engaged with the Government’s on-going review of the law and powers to deal with unauthorised caravan sites and developments. The review was announced in April and Mr Stewart is hoping it means the Government will listen to MK’s concerns.
He has called on the Government to consider giving more powers to the police and local authorities, and also making trespassing a criminal offence in situations like those seen in Milton Keynes.
Mr Stewart said: “Unauthorised traveller encampments are becoming a real issue over in Tattenhoe and West Bletchley. I am receiving emails on a daily basis from concerned residents. It can’t go on.
“Local councillors have rightly called for an injunction to be put on certain pieces of land which should stop encampments in the first place but, there are issues with the process to remove travellers when they do arrive and that is what I will be working on. “
Back in 1994 some powers were given to local authorities and the police to deal with unauthorised traveller encampments, but there is an acceptance among MPs that there is a need to bring those powers up to date, said Mr Stewart.