Tensions In Newcastle After Travellers Camp In Car Park On Good Friday
In Good Friday in Newcastle at least twenty large caravans parked in the Down’s Road car park in the town and placed their vehicles sideways across numerous car parking spaces. As visitors and tourists began to flock to the seaside town at one of the peak times at the start of the season, they were met in one of the main car parks with the fleet of vehicles and campers taking up much of the substantial space allocated for visitors and day-trippers to the town.
One caravan itself occupied nine car parking spaces and others took up a minimum of five or six spaces. Before long local concerns had arisen and the Newcastle PSNI and Down District Council officers arrived and tried to persuade the travellers to leave. Eventually after a full day of negotiations at 8pm on Saturday evening, the travellers were offered an alternative site at the Bann Road playing fields outside of Castlewellan.
A local Newcastle resident said: “Even while I was there looking on to this cavalcade of travellers who had just arrived in Castlewellan, some of the occupants were throwing rubbish out of their caravans and emptying dishes of soapy water through the doors. Dogs were running around without leads and children were running around in their pyjamas. Council officials and police I could see were there for an hour talking to them.
“I understand that the travellers gave an undertaking that they would leave and indeed left early on Sunday morning heading for Castlwellan. Down District Council litter wardens were there immediately onto the Newcastle car park and cleaned up at once.”
The caravans moved to the Bann Road where they stayed for an hour, and then they decamped up to the Upper Square in Castlewellan.
Outgoing SDLP Councillor Carmel O’Boyle said: “Following two days of talks with the travellers, they finally agreed to move to an alternative site on the Bann Road, outside of Castlewellan on Easter Sunday morning. I spent an hour in the Down’s Road car-park on Saturday evening with police and Council officers, trying to persuade them to leave the car park in order to release the numerous car-parking spaces that had been occupied by their caravans and other vehicles for two days over the Easter weekend.
“The one thing that I think we are all agreed upon is that this should not happen again. The Downs Road car-park is not a camp site and we need to ensure that measures are put in place to stop a recurrence of this. Councillors had discussed erecting barriers at the entrance and exit of this car park but at the time we thought that the cost would be prohibitive.
“We are now revising this opinion. Such a measure will affect all camper vans wishing to access this car park, but there is plenty of parking for single cars and camper-vans along the Downs Road and elsewhere. We must protect the Downs Road car park itself for car owners who visit Newcastle to support our local economy. There are any number of camp sites in and around Newcastle for those who wish to stay overnight in our area.”
Down District does not have an official camp site for travellers and this idea was mooted a number of years ago but yet to date has not been progressed. Down District Council councillors are temporarily suspended from involvement in Council business due to the Council elections on 22 may.