The travellers were blamed for fly-tipping when all that was left on the common after they went back up north were some neat piles of mulched bark and branches.
Of course, they should not have left anything, ideally. But I’m not convinced they didn’t cut back the overgrowth to get their caravans parked, improving a meadow which was hideously unkempt after years of neglect by the local authorities.
All travellers are not the same, any more than all ‘insert racial group’ are all the same. You wouldn’t get away with labelling any other community as all bad, therefore when travelling people behave well it should be celebrated. Instead, the authorities did their best to paint them as antisocial. The notice cancelling the fête was left up for weeks. It is still there as I write. Yes, yes, we get the message.
Smaller laminated signs went up everywhere telling residents that a clear-up operation was under way because ‘this area has suffered a large amount of litter and fly tipping’. Suffered. You get the feel. ‘We are working to resolve the situation.’ We. The good people. You get that, right?
What’s more, residents were advised to ‘keep to footpaths and keep dogs on leads’. Think about why that might be, eh?
The day after they left, the builder boyfriend and I ignored the hysterical cordon of plastic tape — ‘I declare this path open!’ he cried — and walked round the meadow and woods, finding not a scrap of litter, just half a dozen piles of chipped bark and branches. I’m fairly sure lefties would consider these a good wildlife habitat. Lord knows, the council like encouraging ragwort for moths to live in. The only plastic we saw were the myriad signs taped to trees warning people about rubbish.
Not three miles up the road, in the neighbouring village where I keep my horses, lay two fly-tipped piles of building rubble in the lane. They have been there for up to a year now. They are outside the home of someone who appears to regard himself as an upstanding member of the community. However, during a lengthy renovation, his rubble has been tipped into the street for so many months the locals have lost track.
One pile is right outside his house. Further along, a hedgerow has been fly-tipped with a pile of old drains. This piece of land has nothing to do with him as it has a highways chevron on it warning people about the bend. As cars, cyclists and horses come down a hill, traffic comes round this bend. Two widenings of the road or pulling-in places have been obscured with rubble and building firm advertising signs, just where every inch of the carriageway is most needed.
When he finished his paving some weeks ago, the rubble didn’t go. So I began ringing it in to the borough council, the highways department of the county council and the police, all of whom said that they visited and told him to move it. But it didn’t move.
I emailed and phoned. I sent videos of lorries and vans nearly meeting head on as they swerved round the obstructions. A borough council spokesperson said: ‘An environmental enforcement officer visited the property, but was unable to speak to the owner. They assessed the material and considered it to be related to building work in progress, rather than fly-tipping waste, so no further action was taken.’
I tried the highways department again and the next morning they attended again. I asked for an update and they told me this: ‘The debris has been removed and today the signs have joined the pile. We are in discussions with the contractor in regards to getting the debris removed.’
In other words, the highways people did not tell the owner to put the debris on his huge driveway until it is taken away, they told him to chuck it in the hedgerow in the lane outside with the broken drains.
I am beyond reasoning with them. Has any one of us ever known a council to let us chuck our rubbish on to a public verge, even if we tell them the contractor left it? Has this man superhuman powers of persuasion? Or has the law changed without the rest of us noticing?
Instead of householders being banned from tipping one ounce of rubble into the street, is it now the case that any of us doing renovations, even those lasting a year, can, instead of hiring skips and disposal firms, tip the by-products into the nearest public layby?
I asked this of the highways department, the borough council and the police, to no avail. I also rang the contractor to ask how he had managed to dump rubbish in the street for so long. ‘Oh yeah, we’re moving that Monday,’ he said, sounding wonderfully breezy.