Councillor's spat with cops over travellers

By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

A COUNCILLOR who used her car to block travellers from setting up an illegal encampment was told to move by police.

Now Coun Lisa Holmes is asking West Yorkshire Police to explain why she was moved – and why officers did not send the traveller group away.

The spat surrounds a traveller convoy that arrived at Oakwell Hall in Birstall last Wednesday (March 27). They were barred from entering the country park’s bottom car park by Coun Holmes, who used her car to block an entrance.

But when she called police to the scene they told HER to move.

“I rang the police at 2.10pm. They came within 10 minutes and told me to move straight away, which I did,” said Coun Holmes, who represents nearby Liversedge and Gomersal ward for the Conservatives.

She has since written to West Yorkshire Police asking why officers did not attempt to remove the travellers.

She added: “I was parked fully on Oakwell ground. I was not in or on the road. I wasn’t preventing traffic from moving. I was blocking the entrance to the car park.

“I fully expected the police to come and tell me to move, and I did.

“The travellers didn’t break in (to the Oakwell land). 

“They just went on because a contractor left the barrier up.”

Coun Holmes said officers  “didn’t even look into the possibility” of using Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which gives them the power to remove trespassers.

The traveller group has now been on the site for a week.

Fellow Kirklees councillor Mark Thompson (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said he understood their presence had led to the cancellation of the weekly Parkrun.

Brand-new cycle tracks have also been used by youths riding quad bikes, though it is not known whether they are part of the traveller group.

He commented: “I am curious to know what the police process is. What did Coun Holmes do wrong?

“She was trying to rectify someone else’s mistake and was asked to move before the gate was closed and locked. Why would the police follow that procedure?”

In recent months Kirklees Council has adopted a robust approach to illegal camps.

A spokesman said: “The council is aware of the encampment on the Oakwell Hall site and is undertaking the necessary legal proceedings for their eviction.”

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said: “West Yorkshire Police have been in discussion with Kirklees Council over the matter.

“We are aware the council is taking action in relation to the encampment on the Oakwell Hall site.”

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