NigelThornton: No winners with the travellers

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
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It’s a familiar story repeated every year – a group of travellers rock up and park their vans near to homes. They don’t receive a warm welcome.

There’s unhappiness all round as the council and the police seemingly twiddle their thumbs as residents fume.

There never seems to be any winners – the residents are dismayed and have the use of amenities denied to them.

The travellers say their lifestyle is under constant attack.

And for the police and the city council, it’s a headache they would rather not have, and I suspect if they could, they’d just look away.

This week, to the general outrage of residents, the travellers plonked themselves near Bretton Water Park forcing the closure of that popular public amenity and denying hundreds of children the opportunity for some fun in the sun.

It’s not the first time this has happened and frankly it’s just not good enough.

Many people have no sympathy for the travellers. I do. I think they should be free to live their lives the way they want to if, and it’s a big if, they abide by the laws and rules of society, and, crucially, the laws and rules of society are applied to them like they are to everyone.

And here is where I have a problem with the city council and the police.

This has happened before so why has the council not made the site secure?

In the past, the council has had to pay for sites to be cleaned up. Why is the cost not charged to the travellers?

In the past there have been cases of criminal damage? Where is the police action?

Year after year we get this problem, is there ever going to be a solution?

Well, yes, there is – after much fuss and consternation the city council settled on the locations for ESPs (Emergency Stopping Places) for travellers.

Although not universally popular they appeared a sensible compromise between the rights of travellers and those of residents. They offer a way out and a sensible solution for situations like the one that has developed at Bretton Water Park.

Or perhaps not.

A Peterborough City Council spokesman said: “The ESPs were set up for a family unit of about six caravans, and there was not enough space for all the caravans at the ESPs in this instance.”

The phrase “not fit for purpose’’ springs to mind.

I love this country, but sometimes...

Like when you’ve spent all week stuck in an office only seeing the sun through the windows, then the weekend comes and not once in the entire 48 hours does the golden one make an appearance.

To rub salt in the wounds, on Monday morning you open the curtains and guess what? There he is, our old friend, shining away.

When I heard that Yaxley man Mark Guest was a fan of, and expert in, “adult Lego’’ I’m afraid some images totally unsuitable for a family newspaper popped into my head.

Fortunately, my years as a journalist and subsequent exposure to the seedy side of life, were to blame and it was no more than grown-ups building models.

Now I think of it I’m envious of Mark for turning his hobby into a career.

As a child I was a big fan of Lego but the best I could manage was a multi-coloured tower!

Mind you I could drink dandelion and burdock for England.

What a remarkable achievement by Peterborough couple Kate and Phil Gilbert, who have fostered more than 600 children.

Two is more than enough for me!

There were extraordinary scenes at the town hall this week when the Peterborough squatters “invaded’’the building. It ended with chief executive Gillian Beasley walking one of the homeless protestors across the city to Bayard Place to get some help.

I neither approve of their methods nor their manifesto but the squatters have effectively highlighted an important issue about affordable homes and empty buildings in the city. They have made their point, but it’s time now for solutions not protests.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

It was too good to last – my smiling little prince Baby T2 has finally shown his grumpy side.

Unlike his high maintenance sister, Baby T2 has slept like, er, a baby almost from day one, and during his waking hours has been a constantly happy little chappy.

But just recently he’s been wearing a frown and waking us up through the night. He’s not had a personality transplant, the fault lies with that horrible five-letter word “teeth’’.

His little cheeks are red and he’s chomping on everything from his mum’s arm to Toddler T’s discarded toys.

I’m sure there’s a good evolutionary reason for baby teeth, but why they have to be so painful is a mystery to me.

Mind you I can’t believe Baby T2’s teeth are causing him as much pain as I had at the weekend having to sit through Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs .

Me and Toddler T (at her behest) must have watched it at least 10 times.

The bizarre thing is I can still only remember the names of six out of the seven dwarfs.But you won’t be surprised to learn that as I left the house on Monday morning I was singing: “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go!’’

Then when I arrived at work I remembered the name of the “missing’’ dwarf. Grumpy!