Villagers living in terror of an intimidating traveller gang are demanding trench fortifications to block the return of the ‘unbearable’ group.
They are calling for the ‘Stone Age’ defences to stop a repeat of the aggressive and antisocial behaviour that shattered the tranquillity of their small West Yorkshire community when around 30 vehicles set up an illegal encampment there.
The group was eventually evicted, but two weeks ago locals awoke late at night to find travellers attempting to force their way back in.
‘People are terrified. They can’t rest easy in their own homes,’ local Tory councillor Bill Armer (above) told The Mail on Sunday
A few of the 1,126 villagers managed to face down their tormentors, but now they want a more permanent deterrent.
‘People are terrified. They can’t rest easy in their own homes,’ local Tory councillor Bill Armer told The Mail on Sunday.
‘I’m urging Kirklees Council to dig a ditch and bank – the old Stone Age-style of fortification.’
The former pit village’s troubles began at around 10.30pm on June 16 when a group of travellers in a dozen vehicles broke through a fence and set up camp on a field next to a children’s playground. More vehicles arrived over the following nights until there were around 30 caravans.
One local resident, who did not want to be named for fear of being targeted, said: ‘For the most part we say live and let live, but they were just so awful. It was unbearable.
‘Our kids were upset because they were so close to the fence, we could hear everything. They were just vile, awful people. The language was appalling. They seemed to come alive at night, riding dirt bikes up and down, driving their 4x4s in and out and using the field as a toilet.
‘I don’t care who they are – what race, colour, religion or creed they’re from – anybody behaving like they were behaving would not be liked. It’s not about them being travellers, it’s about their behaviour.’
Villagers complained of sleepless nights, and of caravans being parked ‘intimidatingly’ close to homes.
One said: ‘Someone asked them to keep the noise down for their young children who were sleeping and one of the travellers said, ‘You’ve signed your own death warrant’.
‘I can’t describe the fear of the people in the village. But they don’t want to raise their head above the parapet in case they get a brick through their window – or worse.’
Residents say they felt abandoned when, instead of bringing in bailiffs to evict the travellers from the council-owned land, the Labour-run authority delivered portable toilets and a water tanker to the site.
The council eventually secured a court order to evict the travellers, but they left the day before they were due to be forced out. Workers reportedly spent a week clearing up the mess left behind, as well as placing huge boulders behind the fence to act as a deterrent.
But at 11pm on Monday night two weeks ago, four travellers were spotted tying to move a two-ton boulder and smashing down the fence. Around a dozen locals came out with torches to confront them.
Villagers living in terror of an intimidating traveller gang are demanding trench fortifications to block the return of the ‘unbearable’ group
‘When the travellers saw the villagers coming across the field, they scarpered,’ said one villager. The locals used a pick-up truck to push the boulder back, and drag four full bottle banks over to the gate as a further deterrent. ‘It was a real show of people power,’ they said.
One local complained that the travellers ‘have got Kirklees Council and the police by the short and curlies’, adding: ‘It’s mob law.’
Channel 4’s Dispatches recently found crime levels around some traveller sites was 50 per cent higher than the UK average – although traveller groups accused the programme of ‘dehumanising’ them with an ‘unfair’ report.
A Government consultation on strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments is due to report soon, but Mr Armer feels that Grange Moor can’t wait.
‘No one has the right to impinge on the lives of other people,’ he said. ‘
Kirklees Council did not respond to a request for comment last night.
A spokesman for travellers’ charity Friends, Families and Travellers said: ‘We condemn all forms of antisocial behaviour, but we cannot and should not attack entire communities for the actions of the few.’