John Holdich on Travellers in Castor

Peterborough City Council has plans to stop up a road in Castor currently occupied by travellers, when land ownership, means of access to farm fields, and service issues have been fully established. Conservative Councillor John Holdich explains to the BBC’s Paul Stainton what the latest position is. Broadcast at 08:10 on Thursday June 24th 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PAUL: Travellers have returned to the village of Castor for the fourth time in six months, and just before barriers could be put up to stop them setting up camp again. Let’s speak to councillor for the village John Holdich who’s also Cabinet Member for Education. Morning John.
JOHN: Morning Paul ..
PAUL: This is a serious problem isn’t it? We know travellers need somewhere to go, they need somewhere to stay, but this is a particularly beautiful part of Peterborough as well, isn’t it, and it is a big problem.
JOHN: It is and it’s a well used beauty spot, not just for people from Cator walking their dogs but people from around the whole area. What we’ve been doing is to stop up a road, or close a road, you actually need to .. the land actually reverts to the original owner. So therefore we are in the process with lawyers looking who the original owner was. We’ve also got to consult with people who have entrances off there, because there are people .. the farmers and the water board’s got an entrance off there as well, to put up a high barrier initially. Also we’ve got to find out where the services all run. And that might sound very simple but it’s a very old and ancient road. That process is well on its way. In the meantime we were going to replace the earth buns we put up there, which have been useless, with concrete blocks. And we were waiting for the farmer to remove his livestock from the field which he was going to do this week. But we got beaten to the punch I’m afraid.
PAUL: For people who don’t know where this is, we’re talking about the old A47 which was left as a slip road when the new dual-carriageway was put in past Castor and Milton.
JOHN: Absolutely. Most people would know it running from the old Milton Ferry where the bridge is up to Castor. You get at it by actually coming up the slip road as if you were going to Castor and it’s immediately to your left.
PAUL: Why is it such a problem that the travellers camp there? What happens?
JOHN: My wife and I walked it last time they were there. It is intimidating. There are dogs and that sort of thing, a lot of rubbish around. So it is intimidating and people’s fear of walking past that sort of thing, they do. I drove down there as well. The road is very difficult, because they park differently. I don’t think people like to get out and say would you mind moving so I can get past. It’s just a general fear and the mess that they leave.
PAUL: The Government recently of course scrapped plans to force you to build more travellers’ pitches. Won’t that make problems like this even worse?
JOHN: You could say that. But you know the problems we have every time we want to put a site somewhere. Nobody wants it near them.
PAUL: How do you remove these travellers now? Because it’s no good putting a barrier up now. They’re there again, aren’t they?
JOHN: Well that’s right. We’ve gone through the process. We’ve given them the appropriate orders to be off by Friday. Then we shall get Saturday and Sunday again and I guess we will enforce it on Monday if they haven’t gone.
PAUL: And hopefully some progress on putting a permanent barrier up there?
JOHN: I hope as soon as they’ve gone this time we’ll get the concrete blocks in place, and then the barrier. It’s going to take some time to sort out the legalities of it. The barrier then can come at a later date.
PAUL: Thank you John. Thank you for that. We did try and speak to John Day who represents travellers but unfortunately John wasn’t answering his phone yesterday.