Bare-faced cheek of travellers killed off museum fund-raiser

That’s another Bank Holiday break gone – another weekend chock-full of events for families to enjoy.

Did anyone attend the re-enactment event at the Staffordshire Regimental Museum yesterday or Sunday?

No, you didn’t… because you couldn’t. Because the annual event, which raises much-needed funds for the museum dedicated to honouring the memory of those who have served with our county regiment, had to be cancelled.

Why? Because a week before the show, a group of travellers turned up out of the blue and parked their caravans on land where the re-enactment was due to take place.

They refused to move until yesterday, forcing officials at the venue near Lichfield to cancel the show – costing the museum about £3,000.

That’s the cost, of course, before the operation begins to tidy up the mess left by these uninvited guests.

This will involve cleaning up a Second World War pillbox they were using as a toilet.

When asked when they would be moving on, a spokesman for the travellers said: “If the museum will provide us with another patch of land – a bit of wasteland will do – we will move before Saturday (the re-enactment was due to take place on Sunday and Monday).

“Otherwise we will probably go on Monday.”

The barefaced cheek of this statement leaves me speechless. Why should the museum lift a finger to assist such a bunch of ignoramuses?

I’m not sure what makes me more angry – the inconsiderate behaviour of this bloke and his clan or the inability of local authorities to tackle the nuisance that such travelling bands represent.

I bet if you and I turned up with a few friends and parked up illegally in a field ahead of a major public event the boys in blue would be paying us a visit pretty sharpish.

Of course, we wouldn’t do that, would we?

Because we wouldn’t dream of spoiling the fun for thousands of visitors or depriving the museum of thousands of pounds in lost revenue.

The frustrating thing is that this isn’t a one-off.

Every couple of weeks in The Sentinel you can read stories of convoys of caravans arriving on waste land or in a field somewhere, using it as a base for several days, then vanishing and leaving local taxpayers or private landowners to bear the financial burden of cleaning up the mess.

Last week there were groups of travellers parked in Shelton and off Westbourne Drive near the Tunstall Northern Bypass.

Last month, another group descended on the former Chatterley Whitfield sports centre at Fegg Hayes – much to the annoyance of locals.

And so it goes on.

Some will argue that those who kick up a stink about travellers are simply NIMBYs who should be more tolerant.

But, given the associated noise nuisance and mess, should anyone really have to put up with a bunch of cars and caravans turning up unannounced and parking up on a patch of land near their homes for days or even weeks at a time? Of course not.

Should taxpayers or private landlords have to foot the bill because these unwelcome visitors can’t be bothered to find a toilet or put their rubbish in a bin? No they shouldn’t.

It’s not bloody Glastonbury. There are permanent sites for the traveller community all around the country and, following the Housing Act of 2006, all local authorities have to assess the accommodation needs for gipsies and travellers.

Councils employ traveller co-ordinators to ensure the community gains access to health care and educational support.

This is all well and good and, in this day and age, it is only right that all ethnic and cultural groups are given access to basic services.

However, I can’t help but think that there is something very wrong with a system under which I can be fined for dropping a crisp packet but which allows scores of people to get away with parking illegally for weeks on end, churning up fields and creating thousands of pounds of damage and mess which others then have to pay for.

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday


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