Travellers move to Swindon park and ride site
TRAVELLERS who were moved off an infamous camp in Essex have moved into the abandoned former Groundwell Road park and ride.
Seven or eight families evicted from Dale Farm in Essex in October 2011 moved on to the site on Wednesday evening after being moved off a camp at a nearby leisure centre.
The land is owned by Swindon Council, which is working with the police to find a solution with the travellers.
John Dickinson, 40, and Lee, 37, are two of the travellers who went into the park after finding the gate open, and are now faced with eviction from the site.
John said: “We are hoping to get a bit of time here but we don’t want to live here like this in a car park.
“It’s dangerous for the kids, but we don’t have any where else to go, and the police are giving us a hard time.
“We’re travellers and we’ve lived like this all our lives. We are always being moved on – the kids can’t go to school and people get sick but, because the council keeps telling us to move on, we have to go.
“They can’t go to school or see doctors, and we can’t get an income to feed our families.
“People are more than welcome to speak to us. If there’s something they’re not happy with they should come and tell us. If we don’t know we can’t do anything about it. We’re not aliens, we’re human beings.
“We know we have rights but we don’t know what they are and if there’s a solicitor who knows them we’d really like to speak to them.”
Police were called after the travellers were seen moving on to the site on Wednesday night.
A spokesman from Wiltshire Police said: "Wiltshire Police were contacted shortly after 7pm on Wednesday, September 18 to reports of a number of travellers converging on the park and ride site in Penhill.
“Wiltshire Police has been working with the landowners, Swindon Council, to find a resolution.
“The site has been monitored by both Wiltshire Police and Swindon Council.”
Last month the building on the site was gutted by a fire which took five hours to extinguish.
Various plans to put the site to use have failed to get off the ground.
Glynis Hales, a presenter for radio station Swindon 105.5, who lives near the old park and ride site, said: “If the council won’t use it as a dog park or a skate park then it should go to travellers.
“People were worried that if nothing was done with it then the travellers would move in, and that’s when I said they should make it a dog park. Now they have moved in anyway.
“They are human beings and they need somewhere to go to.”
The park and ride service was mothballed by Swindon Council in 2009 after it was felt it was a drain on resources.
The closure saved £331,000 but attempts to revitalise the building have failed.
In 2011, an application to turn the site into a dog park failed to come to fruition, and last year plans from local businessman Russell Stevens to transform the area into a farmers’ market stagnated.
In February ward councillors and teenagers asked to turn the site into a skate park.