RESIDENTS in East Tilbury have commented in support of a man who was taken to court by Thurrock Council, charged with taking down a barrier the authority says was put in place to prevent traveller incursions.
The council then followed up the court case, at which resident Lee Read, 33, of Clyde in East Tilbury pleaded guilty by issuing a press release which described him as having removed a fence reports the Thurrock Independent.
In fact Mr Read was charged with having damaged small, intermittently-spaced wooden bollards which were put in place to prevent cars parking on a verge. The Thurrock Independent visited Clyde, where the incident took place and there are just two places featuring the bollards.
The road itself is in the centre of a busy residential area and there appears no area where any traveller incursions might take place.
Thurrock Council leader Rob Gledhill is quoted in the press release as saying: “It is incredibly disappointing to learn that someone would attempt to remove fencing which had only recently been erected to prevent people setting up illegal encampments on public land.”
Residents say Cllr Gledhill and the council has exaggerated the incident and that while Mr Read did remove bollards, there was never a fence to be removed and the relating the matter to a possible traveller incursion is described as a ‘disgrace’.
Mr Read’s wife, Heidi, said: “I’d like to set the record straight here. There never was or has been a fence here, they are small rotting wooden bollards. These bollards are not to stop an encampment area.
“These bollards were put here years ago to stop residents parking on the grass verge because they had budget left over and had nothing better to spend it on.
“The area is a cul de sac and unless the travellers vans are shrunken down to something you would buy as a Barbie accessory then you would not get any caravans setting up here. The reason these bollards were removed was for health and safety.
“Although Cllr Rob Gledhill states that ‘a fence’ was recently erected, this is also a lie! These have been here long enough to have gone rotten and at least two had snapped off at the base and were already lying on the floor.
“The ones that were removed were also rotten and dangerously loose. These were removed with the residents support.
“This was community effort as they were not only a danger, but also a nuisance to the residents.
“For some reason the accused was singled out as the person criminally damaging council property. The council had been called to find out if these were council-owned but no one could give a definitive answer.
“The footage was taken by a resident from across the road on a mobile phone, not CCTV as stated, who had nothing to do with our little close and he filmed not only the posts being removed by neighbours and the accused, but also my nine year old daughter who was also able to knock one of the rotten posts out herself.
“As soon as we were made aware of these being council property we offered to replace them. We were told it was too late.
“My husband is a good man that was out there trying to sort out a problem that had clearly been ignored. He admitted in court he was guilty and under the circumstances the courts were lenient thankfully. It is absolutely horrifying to see the defamation of character that the council has released to the press. I am so disappointed and have completely lost faith in a council I once had respect for.
“I invite councillor Gledhill to come and see how many travellers can set up on the six feet wide area of grass that the bollards were put in for. An absolute waste of council funds.”
Fellow residents in Clyde have taken to social media to comment on the issue, slamming the council.
One says: ” I cant believe this what an absolute joke this is! This is the response Lee has had for for doing the council’s job for them and making the area safer and less unsightly!”
Another says: “It’s disgusting that they (the council) have made this up to make them look like some kind of heroes!
“The wooden posts here were a dangerous hazard waiting for someone to hurt themselves, to say a fence was erected is false. By looking at the posts they were rotten! This is totally twisted from the truth, the council didn’t even know of the posts even belonged to them , truth is if someone hurt themselves they soon would have wished a resident had moved them. What a disgrace.”
Despite the residents’ comments a spokesperson for the council told the Thurrock Independent the authority stood by its decision and that the bollards (described as a fence, had recently been repaired and ‘target-hardened’ as part of the council’s policy to deter illegal traveller encampments in the area.
Cllr Gledhill has been contacted and asked to comment on the statement by the council.