HUNDREDS of travellers are expected to arrive in Swindon today to attend a family funeral and will be given access to the vacant Groundwell Park and Ride site.
The traveller liaison office has been speaking to those involved with the funeral and expect around 500 to be in attendance.
In the past week groups have been reported taking up residence in Lydiard Park and Shaw Forest Park, and the council has offered use of the derelict park and ride site as numbers increase.
The majority of the visitors are expected to be travelling by car for the day, and any caravans will have use of the Penhill site.
Swindon Council leader Coun David Renard said the situation would be monitored by the liason office and police but he did not anticipate any disruption. He said: “The traveller liason office has been advised that there will be a funeral taking place on Monday with around 500 people expected to attend the event.
“It is hard to be specific about numbers, but their view is the vast majority are likely to be arriving and departing by car on the day. We are not sure how many will be using caravans. It could be a small number, but these are the contingency arrangements put in place.
“The reason the site is suitable is it needs a hard standing and an enclosed area that is reasonably secure. I know at least one of the ward councillors is fairly relaxed about it.
“The police will be informed and involved, and the council’s traveller liason officer will be monitoring it very closely. I would expect them to be fair but robust.
“These traveller communities often do not deserve the reputation put upon them by those who do not behave properly.”
Coun Paul Baker, (Lab, Penhill and Upper Stratton), said he has no issues with the decision provided the area remains clean and the council is not left with a bill.
He said: “There is not much we can do if the council let them do it. As long as they try to look after the place I don’t see any problems with it. There are not many other places they can go.
“They are obviously expecting quite a few to turn up. They have been liaising with the family and a lot are going to be arriving by car on Monday, but more will be coming with their caravans because they have to.
“I will have no issues with it as long as they tidy up afterwards, because they have quite a reputation for leaving places dirty.”
Coun Baker said firm plans needed to be drawn up for the derelict site after and idea to transfer waste from the Averies fire to the location was rejected.
He said: “We need something concrete and on paper because otherwise it will just carry on being used as a dumping ground. A lot of ideas have been floated but we are always told they don’t have the money.”