Travellers move into Brondesbury Park site due for redevelopment
PUBLISHED: 15:16 12 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:58 13 September 2016
A traveller community with more than half a dozen caravans has taken over a Brondesbury Park site due for development prompting concerns by residents.
Caravans started arriving at 5-7 The Avenue in the early hours of this morning and are still arriving more than 12 hours later, according to witnesses.
Police were initially called at 1am but returned after receiving reports an axe and a gun had been found at the site.
The property, which has been protected by hoardings for 18 months, was due to be redeveloped by Regal Homes this week.
Brent planning chiefs gave Regal Homes the green light to demolish all buildings and develop 74 residential units in May this year. The plans involve redeveloping the Manor School, which will cater for special needs pupils.
Robin Mills, who lives on The Avenue, heard them arrive. He said: “The travellers started moving in at 1am this morning. At first I thought they were construction workers but then my wife was questioned by police at around 7am this morning, asking how they got in.”
Mr Mills added: “From my window I can see about six caravans, some vans and kids running around.
“There are hoardings right along the front so I think they got in through Christchurch Avenue. They ejected the security guard when they arrived. They got into the building, the lights were on.
They’ve now forced a gate in The Avenue and manoeuvring vehicles into the site so they have two entrances now and there’s no-one to stop them.
“I’ve been told this wouldn’t have happened if the construction company had started the work when it should have.”
Cllr Carol Shaw, conservative representative for Brondesbury Park, said: “I live around the corner from there and have been told by Regal Homes to stay away as it’s too dangerous.
“They were due to start building last week. Travellers have ejected the security guard and it’s very scary as there are more caravans coming.
“I’ve called Brent Council, I’ve called the police but I’m being told nothing. I feel impotent. I’m the local councillor, I’ve been a councillor for 26 years, and I can’t get anyone to ring me about this.
“Residents are asking me what’s happening. It’s frightening to live around the corner, and to be told to stay away from the site. I don’t know what else to do. All this is terrible.”
A spokeswoman for Regal Homes said: “We are aware of the matter. We are dealing with the police. We have no more comments to make at the moment.”
A spokesman for Brent Council said: “We’re aware of the situation at 5-7 The Avenue and we’re working with the Metropolitan Police to deal with it. The travellers have been served with notice to move their vehicles by 7am tomorrow, which their spokesperson has agreed to. We will continue to closely monitor developments.”
A spokeswoman for the police said they were called at 1am to reports of a group of travellers, including children, having entered the disused private commercial site.
She added: “The landlord was contacted and advised to seek legal advice regarding removal of the group.
“Police do not have the powers to evict groups in these specific circumstances.
“Officers are also investigating reports that an axe and a firearm were seen at the site by agents representing the landlord.
WThere have been no arrests and enquiries continue.”