Town Council to spend thousands in attempt to stop illegal encampments outside Helena Romanes School

The traveller site outside Helena Romanes School in June 2018. Picture: ANDY LONG/ESSEX POLICE

The traveller site outside Helena Romanes School in June 2018. Picture: ANDY LONG/ESSEX POLICE - Credit: Archant

Great Dunmow Town Council is shelling out more than £10,000 to deter travellers from camping illegally outside Helena Romanes School.

At an extraordinary town council meeting on Thursday (April 11) members agreed to pay £8,265 for bunds [mounds of soil] to be placed around Parsonage Downs, which leads to the school.

Some £3,300 has already been paid by the council for wooden posts, some of which are now along a portion of Parsonage Downs. That brought the total amount to be spent on measures to deter illegal encampments on the downs to £11,595. It is also understood the council plans to pay a further £3,300 for wooden posts, fulfilling an order made last year.

The school’s governors welcomed the news.

Mike Perry, chairman of governors, said: “This work is long overdue as Parsonage Downs is an area of beauty and not a camp site for anyone to pole up and spoil it, hopefully this will do the trick.”

A group of travellers left Parsonage Downs between April 8 and 9 after more than 10 vehicles arrived on April 1. The school had requested a police presence outside the entrance on April 2, according to an e-mail to parents, sent by head teacher Simon Knight. In June last year, about 18 caravans and associated vehicles pitched up on Parsonage Downs, staying for four days before the police directed them to leave.

Speaking about the travellers’ presence on Parsonage Downs, the mayor of Dunmow, Councillor Barrie Easter, said: “It isn’t good. I think the pupils feel intimidated with them there with their dogs.”

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However, when the travellers left Parsonage Downs recently, Cllr Easter said: “there was really no rubbish left at all. It was the tidiest they have ever left it.”

He also that cautioned that “whatever you do you can’t 100 per cent stop them. You can just deter them. We just hope it does the job.”

Works on the bunds will start after Easter, Cllr Easter believes.

There have been eight unlawful encampments in Dunmow since 2016, town council clerk Caroline Fuller said.