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NEWS FOCUS: Travellers’ three weeks in border town

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
NEWS FOCUS: Travellers' three weeks in border town

MEMBERS of the travelling community, who became a hot topic during a three-week stay in Annan, have moved away.

The third and final encampment, in a privately-owned roadside field, was set up last Friday afternoon but by Tuesday all the travellers had left the field beside Longmeadow House, south of Annan Railway Station.

Initially more than a dozen caravans, vans, 4x4s and trucks had moved on to the well-grazed empty roadside field past an open iron gate.

Residents in Wood Avenue, which backs on to the field, expressed concern about the sudden appearance of an unauthorised encampment so close to their homes.

One householder, who asked not to be named, said: “This is a peaceful road with a primary school and some pensioners houses. We don’t want any bother. We’ve been texting around to let everyone know what has happened.”

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A neighbour added: “I realise they have to find somewhere to go but it should be somewhere with proper facilities.”

It was the third location in the town to be occupied by caravan families in the space of three weeks.

Farmer Archie McBride of Archfield House, near Dalton, owns both the field and Longmeadow House, which he plans to develop into flats.

After the travellers’ departure, Mr McBride said that he would have a close look round to assess the impact on the property where bags of rubbish, and a number of other items were left in the field.

On Wednesday, Mr McBride also installed sturdy padlocked gates across the entrance to the field and the lane to the house, former home of well-known Annan Academy maths teacher, the late Margery Robb.

It was the third location in the town to be occupied by caravan families in the space of around three weeks.

The former Co-operative supermarket in Butts Street was the first settled by travellers at the end of August, sparking a row about the volume of waste and debris left when it was vacated around a week later.

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Next, travellers moved on to an unused development site, pictured left,  at the Windermere business park on the east side of the town, near Carrs Agriculture.

Marion Stewart, secretary of Annan Community Council, also raised concerns about a recent trend of privately-owned sites in and around the town being occupied by travellers.

She said: “One of my main worries is the lack of amenities such as showers and toilets. I believe there have already been issues in the town.”

The retired council official said local authorities had some responsibility to assist travellers but she did not want anything done that impacted on services, such as leisure and sports facilities, used by local residents, particularly children.

After the caravans left Annan, there were reports of travellers setting up unauthorised  sites in the Carlisle area.

 

Learn lessons, urges councillor

AN ANNAN councillor has suggested a meeting of officials  and other agencies to see if any lessons can be learned from the extended stay by travellers in the town.

Lower Annandale member Ronnie Ogilvie, pictured below right, explained that a number of residents had raised concerns with him during the caravan families’ stay.

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He said: “There was certainly a negative perception of the travellers among some local residents.

“I have also heard anecdotal accounts of people upset about travellers’ behaviour as they tried to access toilets, showers and other facilities at both public buildings and at a retail store.

“Some people were also unhappy at being asked if they wanted jobs done or offered goods for sale.”

But Mr Ogilvie explained that the council also had legal responsibilities to consider the welfare of the travellers, who maintain they are pursuing their culture and traditions.

He pointed out local councillors had been regularly briefed by local police and council officials.

Both agencies were in daily contact with the travellers to see if they could resolve any issues and items such as rubbish bags were provided.

Mr Ogilvie stated a key issue for him was the fact that the travellers were using private land without permission and not clearing up the sites when they left.

He said: “I cannot remember travellers staying in Annan for so long, and, now they have left, it may be an opportunity to see if any lessons can be learned for the future.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council have two dedicated sites for travellers in the region at Collin and Glenluce.

However, a traveller staying in Annan said: “They are not where we need to be.”

Legal bid to end encampment

ANNAN Police worked closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council while the travellers were in the town.

A spokesman explained officers made regular patrols at the various sites where the travellers were encamped.

In the case of the site at Windermere Business Park, on the east side of Annan, the police had regularly updated the travellers on a legal process underway to evict them from the land close to Carrs Billington’ premises.

A;di gates cnEarlier, workmen, pictured left, installed heavy-duty security gates on behalf new owners, Aldi, at the former Co-op car park in Butts Street after the travellers departed.

 

 

 

 

Travelling ‘a way of life’

TRAVELLERS were settling into their new base in south Annan on Friday evening when the DnG24 visited.

The clean and well-maintained caravans were parked up spread out across a wide area of short grass grazing land.

Families, spanning the age range from older adults down to toddlers, were enjoying the late sunshine and some of the children were playing with pet dogs.

A middle-aged father, who did not wish to be named, stated that they planned to stay only a few days.

He said that his family, who were Romany and maintaining their ‘way of life,’ had not been at the Co-op car park and that others must have been responsible for any rubbish and waste left.

The traveller pointed out that nationally common land, which was historically used by generations of traveller families for stopovers, had gradually disappeared and that they now could face prejudice from local people when they parked up where and when opportunities arose.

He said: “We’ve been having problems in Annan accessing water and showers but on the other hand some people have been helpful and given us water.  I’d like to thank them.”

Another traveller said the families were heading to Devon and carrying out some work and trading on the way.

 

 

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