A WELL-KNOWN shop owner has criticised authorities for a lack of support after travellers moved on to land owned by her and her husband, forcing them to endure a “living nightmare”.
Jane May, who runs the Lady Jane clothing store in Long Melford, claimed she received little help from Suffolk Police or Babergh District Council after 30 travellers with 17 caravans, horses and dogs set up home on privately-owned land in Clermont Avenue, Sudbury.
Mrs May said the land near St Bartholomew’s Farm was inhabited for nearly a week, with the site left in a “disgusting mess”.
“It has been a living nightmare,” she said.
“We’ve had no help from Babergh or the police. When they first arrived on the Sunday evening, I phoned the police for assistance and it took them an hour to come.
“Myself and my husband Frederick, who are both in our 70s, confronted them but they were very abusive.”
Mrs May said that when three officers did turn up, they told her it was a civil matter and there was nothing they could do unless criminal damage was being caused.
“I’m really very angry as the travellers seem to have all the rights and we have none,” said Mrs May.
“We could have been killed and buried in the ground by the time police arrived. I was shaking like a leaf.”
Mrs May claimed the travellers caused around £3,000 of damage during their stay, burning cars and tyres, ruining a hay crop and stealing iron and steal.
“They left faeces everywhere and a right mess,” she said. “I haven’t been able to sleep because of this.
“We are just trying to protect our land. What do we pay our rates for?”
Sgt Dan Connick, of Sudbury Police, confirmed that officers did attend the site on June 19 to speak with the landowner and the travellers, and the council had provided advice regarding eviction procedures.
“During the duration of the travellers’ stay, high-visibility patrols were conducted in the locality to provide reassurance,” he said.
“The travellers and local residents were spoken to by these officers on a regular basis.”
A spokeswoman for Babergh District Council said: “When travellers camp on privately-owned land it is primarily the landowner’s responsibility to start proceedings in order to remove them and not Babergh’s.
“As soon as Babergh became aware of the problem, the landowner was advised of her rights and was put in contact with liaison officers at Suffolk County Council.”
She added that Babergh had agreed to help Mrs May with the removal of waste left behind by the travellers and warned landowners to take steps to secure their land.
l Travellers occupying land on Friars Meadow have now set up temporary home on a former airfield in Great Waldingfield after being issued with an eviction notice.