PARENTS were left distraught after being locked in and out of a popular coastal activity centre due to council action against a traveller encampment.

A gate on Broadway was closed up on Friday night leaving scores of people unable to enter or exit the site, which hosts a range of groups throughout the evenings.

Disgruntled and frustrated users of the centre were waiting until gone 9pm when a member of staff from the centre came to their aid.

The council is in the process of launching legal measures over a single caravan parked near Hiker Cafe.

A claim form for possession of property from Bournemouth Borough Council was pinned to the gate, which was chained up and padlocked.

Cherie Sears, who was in one of dozens of vehicles trying to enter or leave the site, said: "We went down to Hengistbury Head at 8.45pm to collect my son, who was sailing out of the outdoor centre, to discover the road had been closed and locked, with a warrant stuck to the gate.

"There were a number of cars queuing to leave the other side of the gate and a number of cars - mostly other parents with children at the centre - queuing to get in.

"I read the paperwork and called the agency to get them to allow access, and found out they were in Norfolk."

The firm claimed the guard should have been there, she said.

After further calls were made to police and the council, contact was made with one of the centre's leaders on his personal mobile.

Ms Sears said it got to the stage where some people were discussing getting bolt cutter brought down to remove the lock.

"Luckily one of the instructors had a key and came to our rescue," she added. "Meanwhile, Bournemouth Council responded saying the guard company insisted the guard was there, but he wasn’t.

"When we left with a cold wet tired child, at 9.37pm, the guard still hadn’t returned and the lovely man from the Hengistbury Head Activity Centre was still manning the gate and letting the poor people out

"I understand this was all as a result of one family of travellers that had accessed the land. My major concern was what would have happened if someone, perhaps one of the children, had needed emergency care?"

On Saturday morning, the warrant was found strewn across the grass verge on Broadway.

Michael Rowland, Bournemouth Borough Council's head of parks, said: “We are looking into what happened on Friday and why the gates were left unattended as this should not have happened. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”