Sunday, 15 February 2015

Travellers At Vic House

Victoria House, the stain on the local landscape we just can't get rid of is now playing host to a caravan of Irish travellers (yes apparently that is the collective noun) - although there are around seven actual vans and caravans parked on the site.

It seems this is not the same group of people who moved in behind the old Worcester Park Tavern and then later tried their luck in Manor Park. One of the group told the blog that he had never been in the area before. When asked how long they planned to stay he said they would be gone by Monday and that they would be heading down to Brighton (sic). When asked how they had got in he said they had found the site open (again - sic).

This photo I took of the back gate a few months ago clearly shows the gate padlocked shut. Do any readers remember seeing this gate unlocked recently?

As well as the vehicles at ground level, they have also parked a van up on the car park level. After all the deterioration, hopefully the structure is still strong enough to hold it.

Several people (including the local MP - according to a tweet he sent out) reported the travellers to both the police and the council. Apparently the police turned up quite quickly and then left again just as quickly. No doubt they are relatively powerless as the travellers will be using some legal loophole which means they can't be quickly and easily dislodged.

Alan Plant, chair of the nearly Chapra Residents' Association and also of the Nonsuch Police Neighbourhood Watch has stated:
"I believe the residents have been badly let down by Home Group. Firstly we report that the secondary security fence is down and they say it is not necessary. Then when we repeatedly report that the site is being compromised by intruders they do not care, do nothing and refuse to put in an intruder alarm in the open areas with the excuse that there is no electricity on site. Have they never heard of battery backup and sensors that only activate on movement and a mobile phone connection to alert security. Then they refuse by their lack of action to increase the run of Razor wire."
"I believe Home Group were not even aware that their site had been invaded by travellers until [Cllr] Sam [Bourne] reported it to them. - So much for any security they told us they had. You have to believe it was like the Emperor’s new clothes in Hans Christian Andersen`s book - Non-existent."
"By Home Group's negligence we now have our own travellers site. With children moving around inside the complex in danger. Are Home group going to continue avoiding their responsibility to the Detriment of the London Borough of Sutton and North Cheam? Is the Council charging/fining Home Group for allowing improper and unauthorised use of the site by their negligence."
My Plant reiterated to the blog that Home Group have been continually told of break ins, grafitti and other antisocial behaviour carrying on at Victoria House and have simply refused to take the necessary secuity precautions to prevent it.

Another local resident spoke to the travellers and was told by them:
"We look for places like this that we can get into. If it wasn't like this we wouldn't be here."
Victoria House was sold to Home Group in May last year by Stonegate Homes who had secured planning permission for a fairly popular residential and retail development. The building was supposed to have been demolished last August. It now looks as if we will have to wait until summer at the earliest. See this piece by Paul Scully for more details.

Update (after lunch)

A few readers may remember a similar situation occurring with Perrings who had a derelict warehouse near the station. A 12 year old boy was lucky to be alive after falling through the roof of this derelict building which hadn't been secured properly. According to this report (below) from the Surry Comet in September 1996, the family were considering legal action. Is a similar situation what it will take for Home Group to step up and take responsibility for their property?

*Additional photos courtesy of @NorthCheam, Richard Johnson and David Rymill via Elizabeth Bennett.