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Travellers break into school's playing fields and 'destroy orchard' planted by pupils

By Gurdip Thandi | Walsall | Crime | Published:

Travellers broke on to a Walsall junior school’s playing fields and reportedly damaged an orchard planted by youngsters just months ago.

Half a dozen caravans and cars are parked on the fields

At least half a dozen vans and cars made their way on to the land belonging to New Invention Junior School and set up camp there on Monday evening.

It is believed that the lock to the gates was cut off before the vehicles drove on to the fields where some of the trees were knocked down.

The orchard was planted by teachers and pupils before Christmas and head teacher Alan Pearson was said to be upset by the damage caused.

Officers from Walsall Council and West Midlands Police are aware and have visited the site to liaise with the travellers.

Short Heath ward councillor Adam Hicken has called for strong action to be taken by the authority over the encampment.

The main school building on Cannock Road is situated yards away from the land so lessons were not affected on Tuesday, although the fields are out of use.

Councillor Hicken said: “I am sympathetic to the traveller community, particularly with difficulties they have such as accessing medical help.

“Breaking through the gates of a school and destroying the orchard that the children planted is simply wrong and criminal.

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The travellers broke into the playing fields overnight

“There were many other places they could have gone and not had to cause such mindless vandalism.

“The council are pretty proactive when it comes to traveller encampments in Walsall, so there would have been places to go rather than breaking into somewhere and vandalising the place.

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“The children will need access to those fields more so than usual because of the coronavirus.

“Any lessons or activities over there will need to be scrapped now and that will put strain on the measures to keep class sizes down.

“There should be zero tolerance for criminals and I expect the council to use every power it has to bring those responsible to justice.”

He added: “I have spoken to Mr Pearson and he is very upset. The children worked very hard to plant those trees.

“I’m sure this will only make them redouble their efforts, but that is not the point because they shouldn’t have to.”

West Midlands Police confirmed they were monitoring the situation while Walsall Council and the school have been contacted for comment.

Gurdip Thandi

By Gurdip Thandi
@Gurdo

Local Democracy Reporter covering Walsall.

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