Letter: Travellers: once a farmer's friend, now a New Age enemy to the land

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The Independent Online
Sir: Why should we continue to suffer and pay for the exploits of an indolent, arrogant and aggressive minority sector of society? I refer to the New Age travellers, who seem hellbent on doing exactly what they want to, when they want to, at the expense of the taxpayer's pocket and the majority of the population's health and sanity.

A recent catalogue of events comes from a small town near Ashbourne, in Derbyshire. It epitomises the sad state that our society has reached, where the police are powerless to prevent travellers breaking the law and the public are too frightened to stand up for themselves for fear of retaliation.

Between 600 and 700 travellers are currently pitching camp on a disused airfield near Ashbourne that is surrounded by farmland. They have encroached on cultivated land and, apart from the vehicular damage to standing crops, one of our members has been advised to burn off and plough-in any land on which the travellers have intruded because of the danger from contamination from human excreta and used needles.

The same member has had three sheep killed and one injured by travellers' dogs. A neighbour has had eight sheep killed and we understand more are likely to die from their injuries. Local supermarkets are being raided for alcohol and residents and farmhouse bed and breakfast guests have had their sleep disturbed nightly by music, culminating at the weekend in an all-night rave party.

As well as the threat to the rural economy that these people pose, they are also starting to erode the viability of our rural tourism industry through the adverse publicity generated by their actions. As farm tourism is rapidly becoming a significant income generator, we cannot allow this to happen.

If, in this instance, the police are incapable of doing the job properly, then surely the time has come when these travellers should be controlled by a more rigorous issue of the social security payments, which fund their activities, from their home town only? And should not the landowners whom they exploit be adequately compensated for the damage and loss of income that they cause?

Yours faithfully,

BERNI MILLER

Chief Executive

Farm Holiday Bureau

Stoneleigh, Warwickshire

24 July

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