Queen's Hospital Travellers claim they are 'treated like animals'
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 September 2014
Residents, politicians and the authorities reacted angrily to Travellers who pitched their caravans at Queen's Hospital two days after they were evicted from another site.
The Travellers gave the Recorder a warm welcome
Immaculate caravans, neat piles of rubbish and a warm welcome were not what I had expected when I arrived at the impromptu Travellers site behind Queen’s Hospital, but my preconceptions were clearly wrong.
Residents had told me that the group had fly-tipped and that they were scared to bring their children to play in the park they are living next to because of the family there.
The dad, Simon, who has been on the road for most of his life, gave a firm handshake and invited me to sit with him at his table. “Most people are very good to us as we’ve been in the area for the last few months,” he said.
“Our kids play in the park and get on well with the local children. I’m well- known around here. Even an undercover police officer came round asking: ‘How are you doing? Nice to see you again, Simon.’”
Simon and his family said that they had been “tarred with the same brush” when it comes to fly-tipping and they have even stopped other Travellers from dumping.
More than anything, Simon stressed that his family and other Travellers should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. “We don’t live in houses but we are still human beings like everybody else,” he explained. “But it’s getting increasingly difficult to live the life of a Traveller,” he said in desperation, as they are evicted from their spots with increasing speed. So why carry on?
“We are travelling people. We go back hundreds of years and we can’t change our lives,” he said.
But the Travellers claimed they had been “treated like animals” when they were forcibly evicted from a site they “respectfully” cared for.
Romford MP, Andrew Rosindell, went as far as to call for a law changes to “eject” Travellers quicker.
He said: “It is fundamentally wrong that they should act with such little consideration for local people.
“We cannot allow illegal occupation of land by Travellers to continue and robust action must be taken to set a clear example.”
Havering Council forcibly evicted the Travellers at 5.30pm from Westlands Playing Fields, in London Road, Romford, after gaining an order from Barkingside Magistrates’ Court seven hours earlier.
The park’s protection service towed the caravans to nearby Crows Lane which was deemed a safe place with no parking restrictions.
But Simon, a Traveller in his 50s, who was staying at the site with his family, criticised the council’s behaviour in moving the caravans while the men were attending the birth of a relative. He said the council caused “thousands of pounds” of damage.
“They were very rude to my family,” he said. “They moved our caravans down the road and broke our televisions because they weren’t secured. They treated us like animals.”
He added that his family would never fly-tip as they are accused of doing and they left each site as clean as they found it. They then moved on to Romford Greyhound Stadium’s overflow car park and Jutsums Park, Jutsums Lane, before moving next to the children’s play park in Oldchurch Park on the land of the Rom Valley Way hospital.
Hospital managers Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) vowed to remove the Travellers “as quickly as possible” and said bollards would be installed to prevent their return.
The director of estates and facilities for hospital managers BHRUT, Jackie Nugent, said: “I would like to reassure our local residents that we are doing everything possible.”
Regulatory services cabinet member Cllr Osman Dervish added: “Those who enter and settle in our parks without authorisation must know that they will not be able to get away with such a blatant disregard of local residents amenity space.”