A clean-up operation is set to take place in Ripon after travellers who had been illegally camped on Gallows Hill field left a trail of debris and mess.
In the time between the arrival of the 12 caravans and commercial vehicles on April 30 and their departure on Sunday, councillors received various reports about the field located off the Ripon bypass.
Residents living nearby raised concerns at the level of noise and the amount of debris on the field, much of which has been left behind after the site was deserted.
Minster district Coun Stuart Martin (Con) said: “They have left, but they have left an awful mess behind.
“I have had reports from some residents that they were using the field adjacent to it as a toilet. They have left a gas cylinder and a pile of clothes and rags.
“They have also left landscape material such as cut-down hedges and lots of empty beer cans where they have had fires, as well as lots of black bags with God knows what in. It looks an absolute disgrace.”
“I had concerns for the children using the area as a walkway to go to school, and I wanted to get something sorted quickly. I want to assure residents that we are working towards having the area cleared up now.”
As the land is co-owned by Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), and a private owner, there will now be a co-ordinated effort between the interested parties to clear the field.
Coun Martin said he also reported one incident to the police after hearing that some of the travellers at the site had been chasing rabbits on recreational land.
Initial reports raised concerns about highways access and the infringement of the bridleway but when a council officer visited the site this was found not to be the case.
Countryside access officer Brian Mullins said: “My colleague went down to see the site and technically there was not really any serious infringment of the right of way.
“Now we know of the possibility of that happening in that area it is logged on the system and we will keep an eye on it.
“Many a time that I have dealt with similar issues we have established that they are adjacent to the right of way, therefore we have no legal mechanism to take any further action.”
Ripon North county Coun Bernard Bateman (Con), who serves on the county area committee for the Harrogate district, said once this was discovered NYCC officers decided to visit the site and request the travellers move on.
“In fairness, our estates people did act very quickly once they knew the travellers were there. They should be complimented on that,” he said.
“There was no fuss about moving them on. Our wardens went down to see them and I understand they said they were going to move on and they complied very quickly with that. We are taking action now to make sure they can’t get on there again.”
Ripon South county Coun Peter Horton (Ind) agreed that this would be a sensible course of action for NYCC to take, pointing to the measures taken in 2005 after travellers set up camp on Hell Wath, including placing large boulders at the areas which could provide access points and the enforcement of litter and dog fouling rules.
“We took the same sort of action in Hell Wath and it seems to have worked,” he said. “We need to see if we can have it treated in the same way and made inaccesible if possible.”
With the clean-up operation pending, the state of the field is causing concern among some residents.
One man, who asked not to be named, said: “They come in, they block off the access all the way from the road to the school and they use the field as a toilet. It is an open sewer.
“They cut down the trees and make bonfires out of them. It is very intimidating for people walking their dogs or taking their children to school. Kids have stopped playing on the field for the duration.
“Apparently the council don’t do anything until the travellers have been there for 14 days and that’s not good enough. The response has been too slow to my mind.”