The majority of Ross Town Councillors voted to pay up to £3,500 towards the cost of installing a barrier at the Red Meadow car park. Local residents, who had attended the meeting to urge Councillors to foot the bill even though the car park belongs to Herefordshire Council, were delighted.
The car park has been visited eight times in the past year by members of the travelling community. Gavin Oates, who operates a business near to the car park, said that he was fed up with the mess and hassle and had noticed that buses do not park while travellers are there. He feels this will be affecting businesses in the town which rely on tourists. He said: “It is as if we are easy pickings. I feel frustrated.”
Lesley Hodges, who lives in Kyrle Street, said that she feels sorry for the elderly people living in the flats near the pool because of the noise they make.
She said they hear music, dogs barking and generators all night. She added: “We are sick of the mess. When I walk through the car park to Aldi the smell of urine is horrendous. We are all fed up.” She added that when people come to visit Ross they look at the car park and turn around.”
Councillor Richard Mayo was asked by the Town Council to investigate the different kinds of barriers and the cost. He said he had looked at the options and thought installing a barrier at the car park would be a good idea.
He said that Halo, which operates the swimming pool had offered £500 towards the cost of the barrier and, after much persuasion Herefordshire Council had agreed to match-fund this.
Cllr Mayo asked the Town Council to approve up to £3,500 funding from General Reserves for buying and installing the barrier and any signage needed.
Councillor Phil Cutter said: “I don’t care who pays for it as long it we get it.”
Councillor Caroline Utting said that while there was no guarantee the barrier would work, and she still thinks the County Council should be footing the bill, she was prepared to give it a chance to see if it works.
Councillor Chris Bartrum said although he agrees with installing a barrier, he believes Herefordshire Council should pay, as it is their car park and they benefit from the car parking charges.
He said: “This is a county council asset. It is actually protecting county council income. It is guarding the county council against the expense.
“I understand the residents having a big problem with it and I would, if I lived right next door to where they are camping.
What I would like to ask people is what are we next going to be presented with that we can spend our money on? If we really wanted to do something to support the town perhaps we should use the reserves to resurface Walford Road?
He said: “I know this (the car park barrier) is a massive issue for residents but they should have been encouraged to lobby County Council and petition them to pay for it.”
Cllr Hannah Lerego said while she agrees absolutely that the financial responsibility should lie with Herefordshire Council they have to live in the ‘real world’ as there are cuts being made everywhere. She said: “I have had 31 residents and three businesses contact me.” This is the most contact she has had on any single issue since becoming a Councillor.
Councillor Bramer said that there is no money available at Herefordshire Council, they do not have enough coming in to provide the services people expect. He agreed that the County Council has reserves but they are set by government.
Councillor Jane Roberts said: “It is patently in County Council’s interests to have a barrier and we have presented them with an offer to pay for it. It is disgraceful asking local businesses to fund this.” She added that other sites must be secure or they will be moving the problem a few 100 yards.
Councillor Jo Jennings said there needs to be a sustainable solution, places where these people are authorised to go or they will just go down the road. She said: “There is land and toilets by the river, we have to look at the greater picture.”
Councillor Bedford, who later abstained from the vote, said that he was in favour of the barrier but against paying for it.
Councillor Mayo said that the traveller liaison officer was of the opinion the barrier would work. Thirteen councillors voted in favour of funding the barrier, three were against and one abstained.