TRAVELLERS have set up four camps on public land in Bournemouth and Christchurch over the weekend.

Rugby matches and private parties had to be cancelled after a large group of vans and caravans arrived at Bournemouth’s Meyrick Park.

Groups of travellers were also at the Waitrose car park at Bargates in Christchurch and the Queens Road coach park at in Westbourne.

It is believed an angle grinder was used to break the lock on the barrier on the southern entrance at Meyrick Park’s Central Drive, allowing a convoy of eight caravans and 12 vans to drive onto the playing fields.

Keiran Downer, an Oakmedians player who lives above the clubhouse, said: “The police turned up because on Friday night six or seven caravans turned up at the bottom entrance.

“When the police left after around 20 minutes, they drove around to the other entrance, broke the lock on the gate and forced their way onto the field,” he added.

“There have been kids driving around on the pitches on pit bikes and in the vans, and they were partying in one of the vans until six o’clock on Saturday morning.”

He said a private security firm was carrying out full-time surveillance of the area, with police officers making regular visits.

The rugby club has had to postpone training at the field until the travellers have been moved along and the premises has been cleared.

The team are also due to play their first pre-season match against Taunton this coming Saturday, but have cancelled the fixture.

Two private functions that were due to be held over weekend at the clubhouse were cancelled, resulting in lost revenue for the rugby club.

Councillor Philip Broadhead, who represents Talbot and Branksome Woods on Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, said: “From the email I have received from council officers briefing us about the incident, apparently there was an angle grinder that was used to gain forced access to the playing field at Meyrick Park.

“It is quite surprising that Meyrick Park was targeted as security is usually quite good down there

“A court order is currently underway and should be finalised at the beginning of the week.”

BCP Council says on its website that the process of removing unauthorised camps can take 14-21 days depending on the circumstances.

A group of travellers also reportedly moved onto an area of parkland in Throop on Sunday.

It is alleged that a lock on a gate was broken and locals claim they have suffered 'noise disturbance' from people on scrambler bikes late at night.

A local resident who asked not to be named said the camp, on Chesildene Avenue near St Paul's Church "has already, in one day, caused a lot of trouble and mess." 

Dorset Police said: "We were called at 12.49pm on Sunday August 11 to reports that travellers had arrived on a field off Chesildene Avenue in Bournemouth. Officers from the local neighbourhood policing team are liaising with the landowners and partner agencies." 

The Throop incident brings to five the number of traveller encampments that have sprang up in the past week in the East Dorset area.

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