Residents fume as travellers descend on resort

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The Independent Online

Thousands of travellers descended on Bournemouth over Christmas and the New Year, angering local people by allegedly causing thousands of pounds' worth of damage.

An estimated 3,000 travellers massed with their caravans at the Dorset town's Kings Park, reportedly damaged sports fields, and forced local pubs and other businesses to close.

Police and council officials do not expect to be able to move them on until later this week, prompting local politicians to claim that the authorities could not cope. A Bournemouth councillor, Roger West, said: "The situation is way beyond the control of a small holiday resort like Bournemouth and the Dorset police. That does not mean we have to accept these invasions. Do you think that London would tolerate an encampment like this in Hyde Park?"

Phil Stanley, a member of the Bournemouth Athletics Club, claimed the travellers had "ransacked" the club's stadium, "driving all over the track".

David Atkinson, MP for Bournemouth East, said the resort had developed a reputation with the travelling community as a "soft touch". "This is the worst-ever invasion of a Bournemouth park to end the worst-ever year for invasions of Bournemouth parks," he said.

Other English seaside resorts, including Great Yarmouth and Skegness, have previously been targeted by travellers congregating for Christmas or Easter holidays.

Last year, Dorset authorities met with police and MPs to discuss ways of alleviating the problem. Mr Atkinson has called for a fast-track system to allow travellers to be evicted within hours, and an official travellers' camp to protect parks.