Traveller trouble

Walks and river views spoiled by travelling people’s illegal camping

Havoc fire pic 2

By Bill Heaney

Travelling people have moved from Havoc on the Clyde shore at Westcliff to Postie’s Park in Levengrove, Dumbarton

Police Scotland this week announced their determination to make the travellers move on immediately – but that is unlikely to be successful.

The travellers’ saga has been going on in Dumbarton for many years, especially at Havoc, where people go for walks “round the shore”.

The walkers heading for the Scottish Rocks have found their paths blocked and had to face the prospect of coming up against ferocious watchdogs.

The police say they are aware of the problem and have warned the public not to approach the travellers, many of whom make their living by tree pruning and other gardening work.

This leads to illegal fly dumping in places such as the Loch Lomond Cycling Path along the banks of the River Leven and other places which would be beautiful apart from the mess these people leave behind.

The local council had tried to confine the travellers to the official halting site behind Dalreoch railway station, but it would appear that they vandalised security equipment at Havoc which was designed to keep them out.

Local people who have been campaigning vigorously for the Council to overturn its decision to stop planting out the flower beds at Levengrove were dismayed to find the travellers had moved into one of the loveliest spots in the town.

Some of them were out sunning themselves on lie-lows and deck chairs taking in the views of Dumbarton Rock, the Old Kilpatrick Hills, the Renfrewshire hills and the confluence of the two rivers, the Clyde and the Leven.

Ian Boag wrote on social media: “So out for a cycle before work and went through Dumbarton, Levengrove park out to the havoc park.  I used to play football on those pitches when I was younger and used the community changing area too.

“I don’t know the right terminology for the people in caravans and vans that broke into the park and settled at the shore. But most of the vans have landscape and rubbish removal logos on the vans.

“Every cycle track and path which I used a few months ago is now covered with piles and piles of junk, trees, grass cuttings, and household clearance stuff is everywhere.”

Mr Boag said the Fire Brigade were called to Havoc (pictured above) to put out the smouldering remains of smouldering remains of the sports changing area near the railway “which has been burned to a crisp overnight along with some park area”.

He did not make any allegations about who was responsible for what is being treated by the police and Fire Brigade as wilful fire raising.

He said: “It’s gonna cost a fortune to clean up.”

Travelling people at Castle Street 2Travelling people on a previous visit to Dumbarton. Picture by Bill Heaney

Meanwhile, he has appealed to local people to use reputable tradesmen and landscaping firms who guarantee the proper way of disposing of any waste at refuse dumps and recycling centres.

And he put this question to West Dunbartonshire Council: “What if anything is being done? Trucks are going in full and leaving empty. Is there a strategy to stop this?”

Councillor Ian McLaren, who is responsible for the council clean-up strategy and who takes part himself with groups of volunteers to clean up rubbish from the shore at Levengrove and around the Castle, is part of the SNP boycott of The Democrat. They think we ask too many awkward questions.

Stephen Neeson said: “The council have to go through legal proceedings to remove the travellers from Havoc park. Unfortunately, this takes time and a lot of finances.

“Why they can’t put up better barriers to prevent them setting up camp there is beyond me. If more people researched the company, they use for garden or tree work or house clearances then these travellers wouldn’t camp in this area in the first place.

Some folk are set on getting shoddy work done on the cheap by these travellers and unfortunately the result is a massive clean- up and legal bill footed by the council, which then finds its way to the council taxpayer.”

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the fly tipping issue and once the travelling people move on this will be cleared.”

MSP calls for talks on traveller issues 

MSP Jackie Baillie, has called on West Dunbartonshire Council to get around the table with members of the traveller community to find a long term solution to them illegally occupying land in Dumbarton year after year.

The traveller encampment has been moving around areas of Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven in a bid to find an area to settle. So far West Dunbartonshire Council has served eviction notices which will lead to a court date if ignored. The travellers first moved into the Havoc and have recently moved on to Postie’s Park.

Jackie has had numerous complaints from local residents about the mess that is left behind and the feeling of intimidation when local people are out walking through Havoc or in Levengrove Park.

However, a long term solution is key to ensuring that members of the traveller community and residents of West Dunbartonshire can live in harmony in the future.

Jackie Baillie said: “It is crucial that West Dunbartonshire Council get around the table with members of the traveller community to find a long term solution to the problem. Having to move travellers on from site to site is time consuming and local people don’t understand why the Council cannot put up more robust barriers or fencing to deter future access.

“West Dunbartonshire is a lovely place to live so it is easy to see why members from outside the area are keen to set up home here but the current situation is causing problems between permanent residents and travellers. Finding a long term solution must be urgently considered and would bring comfort to everyone involved.”

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