Travellers face farm blockades: Police monitoring convoy of 45 vehicles

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The Independent Online
FARMERS in Wales were warned yesterday to block entrances to their land to avoid an Easter invasion by convoys of New Age travellers.

The warning came as police from three forces monitored a 45-vehicle travellers' camp, set up illegally on land in the village of Pen-y-bont, north of Welshpool on the Powys-Clwyd- Shropshire border. The landowner has started legal moves to evict the travellers, but the process could take three weeks.

About 5,000 travellers and hippies caused chaos last summer when they took over private farmland 25 miles away at Kerry, near Newtown. Hill farmers alleged that the travellers had caused thousands of pounds in damage by uprooting fences, ruining grass and allowing their dogs to savage sheep. As the travellers retreated, farmers sprayed fields with manure to deter trespassers.

Bob Parry, president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, yesterday said new precautions should be taken: 'We urge all farmers immediately to block off all entrances to their land to try to keep these people out. We are only days away from Easter and we suspect these people will soon be joined by their friends.'

Home Office ministers who last year condemned travellers as 'a direct assault on the structure of social life in the country' have announced tough curbs on illegal camping. It will become a criminal offence for anyone to station a caravan 'for the purpose of residing for any period' on unoccupied or common land or any land occupied without the consent of the owner. But because Parliament's legislative timetable is full the measures will not become law until later this year.

The Farmers' Union of Wales and the Country Landowners Association, which have campaigned for powers to combat 'hippy raves', fear that the laws will come too late to spare the West Country and Wales another season of convoys.

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