Mirfield residents express 'despair, anger and fear' as recreation ground left strewn with rubbish and people seen defecating in the undergrowth

People in Mirfield living near a recreation ground regularly occupied by traveller groups say they feel “despair, anger and fear” at the almost annual occurrences- and that they are “passed from pillar to post” when they report anti-social behaviour.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 2:00 pm

One resident whose home overlooks the football field at Old Bank Road said the site had been left strewn with “rubbish and filth” after people were seen defecating in the undergrowth.

Portable toilets supplied by Kirklees Council had been tipped over before the group left.

Around 40 vehicles are now parked up a short distance away on Norristhorpe Recreation Ground, off Norristhorpe Lane in Liversedge. It is understood to be the same group that was evicted from Mirfield following court action by the council.

Travellers at Liversedge. Kirklees Council may apply for a possession order to remove them. The process could take more than a week

Frustrated locals say the groups has pitched an unauthorised camp at Old Bank on four occasions during the last five years.

This time people living opposite the land said there was a violent altercation involving three vehicles that left one woman limping after appearing to be injured.

One resident said: “They ride scramble bikes and quad bikes, revving engines for three, four or five hours at a time, racing round where we live or riding up and down the street and wrecking the field.

“Then two pick-ups and a white car were crashing into each other and ramming each other. There were children around, throwing chairs and a golf club at the vehicles.

"It might have looked like stock cars but it wasn’t. It was serious.

"I couldn’t believe it. It was like Starsky and Hutch. We couldn’t believe they were damaging their own vehicles.”

Another resident likened the incident to “an internal feud”.

One woman said: “It’s the violence and the language as well – even from the kids. We won’t go near them.”

One vehicle was later found abandoned by police. Another was taken away on a low-loader.

The latest encampment lasted 10 days, from July 14 to 24.

Locals said the group’s arrival was “within a week” of when they arrived two years ago. There was no visit in 2021.

One local resident said: “It’s the fourth time in five years that they’ve come.

"We feel despair, anger and fear, and that nobody takes any notice of us because we know what we’re in for when they come.

“We have rung so many different agencies as well as the police. They tell us it’s the council’s responsibility.

"The police came after someone complained about the noise. Five minutes after they left, they were back on the field doing it again.

“One side of the field is old people’s bungalows. They can’t be in their gardens.

"I don’t think anyone’s been on the field since the travellers arrived. We feel we’re being passed from pillar to post, going round in a big circle.”

West Yorkshire Police confirmed there had been complaints about noise and an “ongoing disturbance” but that no crimes were reported.

The force said trespass was a civil matter to be handled by the local authority.

For the council, senior councillor Graham Turner said it has “well-established policies and procedures in place” to deal with illegal encampments.

The council has previously said it would not use bailiffs to remove traveller groups from its land. Instead it prefers legal action.

However the process of applying to the County Court for possession orders can take more than a week and is an expensive exercise. In the past it has been calculated that the cost could be as much as £250,000 a year.

Travellers use a range of sites in Kirklees to set up camp. They include:

Tandem Way, close to the Gallagher Retail Park at Waterloo in Huddersfield.

Dewsbury Country Park, off Park Road in Ravensthorpe.

The car park at the Sainsbury’s store at Shorehead in Huddersfield.

Land off Briestfield Road at Grange Moor.

Land at Bradley Park, off Wilton Avenue and Leyland Croft, in Bradley, Huddersfield.

Playing fields at Somerset Road, Almondbury.

A recreation ground off Springwood Road close to Holmfirth High School.

The car park at Leeds Road Retail Park in Huddersfield.

Playing fields at Hawkroyd Bank Road in Netherton.

Playing fields at Leeds Road, Dewsbury.