The large group of travellers who had taken up residence on the playing fields at Coombe Wood were moved on yesterday.
The familiar task of clearing up the mess left is expected to begin in earnest on Monday morning. It means that work to install the temporary cabins for the “grammar school ethos” Coombe Wood School can then start, in order to be ready for the first year intake in September.
The irony of the week-long stand-off between the travellers, the police, council officials and bailiffs was that while the large collection of high-end cars, trucks, camper vans and caravans moved in, the residents of neighbouring Melville Avenue were moved out. A serious leak to the gas mains forced a number of residents of the South Croydon street to be evacuated for a couple of nights to the nearby Premier Inn.
They have now been allowed to return to their homes.
The playing fields clear-up will be paid for by Croydon’s Council Tax-payers. Apparently, the council’s “Don’t Mess With Croydon” campaign, with its threat of court action and high-tariff fines, is not extended to the travellers, who have left behind them a trail of stinking domestic rubbish and detritus which would make most commercial fly-tippers appear like beginners.
Many residents are angry at this less-strict approach. Some locals have been fined by Croydon Council for the offence of leaving cardboard by the side of their collection bins.
Additional players in the efforts to persuade the travellers to move on from the playing fields were the Department for Education, notional “owners” of the site since it has been granted planning permission for the £30million Coombe Wood selective school.
The DfE had advised nearby residents that the travellers would be moving on Friday, though a Section 77 notice had been served as a precaution.
However, delays while council officials completed the necessary welfare and health checks required under their own Unathorised Encampment Policy resulted in the group staying an extra night.
The council’s policy states that Croydon “strive to balance the interests of local residents and the travelling population affording the opportunity to develop more open and trusting relationships with such communities”.
According to council officials, negotiations were held with the travellers, rather than going to the expense of obtaining a Section 78 court order for eviction, and it was agreed that they could tay until Friday.
As well as the clean-up costs, it seems that Council Tax-payers will also be picking up the bill for the repair and replacement of the gate, height restrictor and security poles, now all back in place in an effort to stop unauthorised entry to the site.
The Folio Trust, the grammar school operators based in Sutton who have been handed the site, have to the end of July to complete the installation of their temporary buildings.
Whether their builders can stop further invasions of the site remains to be seen. Council workmen fitting the replacement locks on Saturday shared their opinion that it would only take a coupe of minutes with a £30 battery-operated angle-grinder to break through the gate’s new padlocks.
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