Residents 'intimidated' by traveller festival

PUBLISHED: 17:30 13 September 2013

RESIDENTS of Puxton and Hewish have spoken of their anger and disappointment at the way authorities handled a traveller festival in their village.

Up to 7,000 travellers descended on the area on the weekend of July 24-26 to celebrate the Light of Life Christian festival.

A Mercury Freedom of Information Act investigation later showed a surge of up to 70 per cent in calls to police from the area during the weekend.

Angry residents attended a meeting of Puxton Parish Council last week to speak out over alleged intimidation by festival-goers and the huge impact it had on the villages.

One resident complained of a friend’s business being shut down during the festival.

He said: “He had to close because of all the thefts. His waste bins were so full because anything and everything was just chucked in there. Security guards cost him more than £2,500.

“To say there was no disruption to village life is just not on. This village was plagued by travellers.”

Puxton Park boss Alistair Mead attended the meeting, and claimed travellers created illegal encampments on his land.

He said: “We were treated like rubbish. Trading was down and we are sure it was because people were intimidated.”

He also said the council and police need more courage to stop any future events.

He said: “We were really disappointed. I know if I held a massive gathering like that we would be closed down within seconds. It was completely disorganised.”

A spokesman for North Somerset Council attended the meeting. He said: “The Light of Life festival was brought to our attention very rapidly. We were made aware of it 72 hours before it started.

“I absolutely acknowledge there was an impact on the community. There was a large amount of people attending the event, and putting them in one place in a small community like this is going to have a huge impact, regardless of the people involved.

“We had completely insufficient time to deal with the situation. All the authorities involved were unhappy with the notice we were given.

“In other circumstances, the organisers would be legally required to come to us if alcohol is served or entertainment organised, but this did not require an event licence.

“We will be talking to the landowner about how the land is used.

“I suspect one of the reasons they did not tell people of the event is the prejudice people have. I’m not saying they are right, but that’s probably why they did not come forward.”

Residents also complained of the environmental impact of having such huge crowds in the area as several tonnes of rubbish were cleared from the site after the festival. The council spokesman acknowledged there were some complaints of illegal encampments, but none of fly-tipping.

He also claimed a nearby rave at Banwell caused more complaints through noise pollution than the traveller festival.

Police representatives were unable to attend the meeting.

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