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Council 'powerless' to move travellers' caravans at Sheerness


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Travellers are camping at the entrance to historic Blue Town on the Isle of Sheppey - but there is nothing Swale council can do about them.

Caravans, which had previously been parked in a contractors' compound off the Lower Road at Minster, moved onto land yards from the 190-year-old Naval Terrace and the entrance to Sheerness Docks at the start of the month.

Travellers caravans at the entrance to Blue Town
Travellers caravans at the entrance to Blue Town
Travellers are camping at the entrance of Blue Town near historic Naval Terrace
Travellers are camping at the entrance of Blue Town near historic Naval Terrace
Travellers vans at the entrance of Blue Town near historic Naval Terrace
Travellers vans at the entrance of Blue Town near historic Naval Terrace

Vans have spilled onto Blue Town High Street but because the caravans are on private land, Swale council says its hands are tied.

A spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the unauthorised encampment at the entrance of Blue Town in Sheerness.

“They’re on private and Kent County Council (KCC) owned land. We’ve spoken to the landowner to give advice on the process required to remove them and KCC’s gypsy and traveller unit are also involved."

She added: “As they are not on our land we don’t have any direct powers. But we’ll continue to work with the affected parties to move the unauthorised encampment out of Blue Town.”

The travellers appear to be operating businesses from the site and also have generators running.

Naval Terrace, Blue Town, built nearly 200 years ago
Naval Terrace, Blue Town, built nearly 200 years ago
Dockyard Church, Blue Town, is nearing the end of its restoration
Dockyard Church, Blue Town, is nearing the end of its restoration
Gate to Naval Terrace at Blue Town is now locked
Gate to Naval Terrace at Blue Town is now locked

KCC insists the caravans are not on its land, either, and can't do anything. A spokesman confirmed: "It is the landowner’s responsibility to stop people trespassing on their land or take action to evict them if necessary.

“KCC will take appropriate action if travellers make camp on the council’s land such as school fields, country parks and grass verges, or on a public highway.

“In this instance, the land in question is private property. It is a matter for the owner to take whatever action they deem necessary. We would be happy to provide advice if they request it.”

The caravans are on a small, fenced off triangular section of grass overlooking Brielle Way which is the main road into Sheerness.

There is an industrial estate next door with a garage, auction house and trade warehouse CD Supplies.

Burned out wreck of a car abandoned in Blue Town High Street
Burned out wreck of a car abandoned in Blue Town High Street
Burned out wreck of a car abandoned in Blue Town High Street
Burned out wreck of a car abandoned in Blue Town High Street

But on the other side of a wrought-iron fence is the Georgian-built terrace where homes sell for around £1m. The eight, three-storey, yellow brick houses were built in 1830 for the top officers stationed at Sheerness Royal Naval Dockyard.

A resident, who did not want to be named, said: "Naturally we are concerned. The travellers appear to be well behaved but it is not something you want turning up on your doorstep."

A gate leading from Blue Town to the terrace is now locked shut.At the end of the terrace stands the Dockyard Church which is being renovated as part of a £8m regeneration project to turn it into a community centre and home for starter businesses. The church, which was left derelict after a fire, is due to open later this year.

A blazing car was recently abandoned on the road, yards from the encampment. The burned-out wreck was still there on Monday but has since been taken away.

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