RESIDENTS say a lack of security at a popular park is to blame after travellers were allowed to gain access.

Many complaints were directed at Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) when trees were cut down at Laurel Park last year, which has made it easier for vehicles to enter the playing fields.

The land, which is due to be handed over to Earley Town Council, has been overrun with at least a dozen caravans in recent weeks and councillors are in the process of removing the encampment.

Steve Felham, secretary of Maiden Erlegh Residents Association (MERA), believes the frustration of the latest incursion was an inevitability after the trees were removed.

He said: “We are not happy to have been proved right about this.

"Our immediate priority is to have the travellers removed and to protect the field against future opportunists, but we are determined to protect this field in the longer term if that is what the residents of the community want.

“Residents have been complaining that it is taking too long to remove the travellers from the site and their children are monopolising the playground and indulging in anti-social behaviour.

“WBC has promised to clean up the playground and the site when the travellers eventually leave and to review the security arrangements."

Council officers and local police expect to obtain a court order to evict the travellers on Friday.

Mike Bradshaw, chairman of Laurel Park FC, told the Chronicle that parking problems have continued to frustrate the community for several years and said the football club would continue to strive for a solution that would benefit everyone.

He added: "Our club is being blamed for the travellers coming into Laurel Park and clearly that is not the case. There has also been a personal threat to a club official and this will not be tolerated.

"We as a club pride ourselves on the way we work tirelessly to support the community and hope the great work that everyone does will not be forgotten.

"We obviously feel for the local residents and the worry and fears they are enduring. Everyone at Laurel Park FC is a resident of Lower Earley and the surrounding areas, so we are equally affected by this illegal encampment."

Councillor Pauline Jorgensen said: "No matter what you do you cannot completely protect a public park from incursions without preventing access for the wider community.

"I have asked the council to review the security but we have had experiences of this before and they are prepared to break locks and pull bollards out of the ground.

"A lot of people would not have a problem with the travellers, but it is the anti-social side of things that people object to.

"I think the law needs changing. I have been talking to John Redwood MP about it, as I do not believe it is fit for purpose."