Travellers set up illegal camp on County Durham village's football pitch

Travellers have set up camp in a village park's football pitch in Coxhoe in County Durham

Travellers on the playing fields at Coxhoe Park in County Durham
Travellers on the playing fields at Coxhoe Park in County Durham

Travellers have set up an illegal camp on a village football pitch, sparking a flood of complaints from residents.

Around 16 caravans arrived in Coxhoe in County Durham on Saturday after a bollard blocking access to the field was left unlocked.

The group have now been served with an eviction notice by Durham County Council, however their short spell in the village has led to an increase in complaints of anti-social behaviour.

Police have said they will step up patrols until the group moves on, which should be by Tuesday.

One resident, who lives five minutes from the normally busy Coxhoe Park, at Mulberry, said: “It started on Friday night with about six caravans and by early Saturday there were 15 to 16 caravans on the pitch. We don’t know where they have come from but we think they’re making their way back from Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria.

“It’s been the weekend and children are always playing down the park and now they can’t.

“The consensus is that the authorities are powerless to do anything about the situation.”

He said his young daughter also had her hair pulled by a group of children and an attempt was made to steal her phone on Saturday while she was crossing the park.

Travellers on the playing fields at Coxhoe Park in County Durham
Travellers on the playing fields at Coxhoe Park in County Durham
 

A spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said they were aware of an increase in reports of anti-social behaviour in the Coxhoe area over the weekend but did not comment on this specific incident.

Residents with concerns contacted Coxhoe Parish Council’s Facebook page over the weekend leaving dozens of comments about how the site was disrupting daily life in the former mining community.

County councillor Maria Plews is said to have secured an eviction notice for this temporary camp, however villagers are also concerned that a 28-day stopping area has been proposed for nearby Kelloe, which could increase the number of caravans in the area throughout the year.

Oliver Sherratt, Durham County Council’s head of direct services, said: “We are aware that there is a traveller encampment on playing fields close to the leisure centre in Coxhoe.

“This has not been authorised by the council and is in an unsuitable location.

“We will be taking steps to issue Directions to Leave and, in the meantime, are providing extra warden patrols alongside the police and reminding those on the site of the need to respect the area.”

Travellers on the playing fields at Coxhoe Park in County Durham
Travellers on the playing fields at Coxhoe Park in County Durham
 

A spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “Due to ongoing issues within the Coxhoe area over the weekend, there will be an enhanced police presence in the area throughout the evening and night.

“Please feel free to come and engage with officers when you see us out and about.

“There has been an increase in reports of anti-social behaviour and community concern over recent days, and the patrols are in response to those issues.”

The ActiveLife @ Coxhoe Leisure Centre at the park has remained open although the caravans have affected some football games being played on their pitches.

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