The Wokingham Paper

Locals plea for council support to tackle traveller incursions

SHINFIELD residents say that they are struggling with travellers and are pleading for the council to help them. 

Residents of Wellington Court coordinated and set up a 20-day-long roadblock made from their own vehicles in order to deter a group of travelers from setting up camp on the privately-owned land. 

The roadblock ended on Tuesday, August 20, after four large, concrete blocks were arranged in a chicane on the drive to prevent vans with caravans entering the driveway. The concrete blocks were planned as a temporary measure before a permanent mound could be built along the sides of the driveway.

Landowner Joy Moffat and the residents of Wellington Court have felt “stressed, threatened and worried by the reappearance of the travellers for a second time this year,” said Kara Stuart, Mrs Moffat’s daughter.

Back in January, a travelling community pitched up, bringing with them pickup trucks, vans, caravans, adults, children and dogs.

After staying on the land for approximately a week, landowner Mrs Moffat hired private bailiffs to move the community on.

Mrs Moffat and the community of residents at Wellington Court say they have struggled against Wokingham Borough Council with their desire to create a permanent solution, such as building a mound running the length of the driveway.

This was suggested by an independent contractor and would prevent large vehicles from accessing the land.

The day before the mound was due to be constructed, Ms Stuart said that they were contacted by WBC who advised that the mound could not be built without planning permission, as it was considered to be ‘engineering work’.

At a planned height of 60cm and width of 1m, Ms Stuart spoke about the planned mound: “This is not an engineering project, as all works would be undertaken from the road, no machinery would be on the verges, and no digging is required.”

An application to construct the mound was submitted on Monday, September 9, however, the residents have been told it would be 8-12 weeks before they hear back. 

“All the council have done is put barriers against us,” said Ms Stuart. 

“Can they not work with us to try and find a solution?”

Ms Stuart went on to say: “The travelers keep driving past and threatening they will be back.”

Due to the time-sensitive issue facing the residents, they are seeking urgent support from Wokingham Borough Council.

Local independent Cllr, Jim Frewin said: I have tried to help the residents of Wellington Court by trying to push their application through to the planning permission stage.”

“The government are looking at changing the law for how issues such as these can be dealt with, whereby anything over two vans on private land becomes trespass and then the police can deal with the issue.”

Leader of Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr John Halsall is due to meet Mrs Moffat on Friday, September 27 to discuss the issue. 

“Wokingham Borough Council has sympathy with any landowner who suffers unauthorised incursion onto their private land,” said Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement.

“The landowner at Wellington Court has submitted a tree works application to build a mound the length of each side of the Wellington Court driveway, which has one of the borough’s finest and most significant avenues of Wellingtonia trees. The avenue of trees is subject to a tree preservation order, to ensure the safety of the trees, which is presumably why they have submitted a tree works application.

“To build a mound like this, the landowner needs to submit a planning application, not a tree works application – they’ve submitted the wrong sort of application.

“I would highly recommend the landowner seek pre-application advice so our officers can help the owners find a win-win solution. Our planning and tree officers can work with the landowner to find a suitable solution to this issue that protects both the land from incursions, the character and quality of this important landscape and the highly-valued trees.”

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