Surprise as travellers set up camp outside Cheltenham Lido
TRAVELLERS caused a splash among surprised swimmers as they set up camp outside Cheltenham's Sandford Parks Lido.
Three caravans arrived in the car park of the outdoor pool, in Keynsham Road, with occupants claiming they were planning to stay for around "two or three days".
The unexpected guests wasted no time in making themselves at home, setting up picnic chairs outside the vehicles, along with gas canisters and washing up buckets.
The arrival raised eyebrows among swimmers as they arrived at the pool for their morning dip.
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One woman, who declined to be named, said: "Are they allowed to be here? I've never seen travellers set up in a public car park before."
Other people were more charitable however.
George Douglas, 33, from Leckhampton, said: "As long as they are not causing any trouble we should just let them be. I'm sure they won't be here for long."
Bosses at the pool say they are seeking legal advice and have already asked the visitors to move on.
But the travellers dug their heels in yesterday, claiming they had a right to be there.
One of them told The Echo: "We are paying to be parked here – £8 a day – so as far as I'm concerned we have a right to be here.
"People look at us as if we have come from outer space, but we are just normal people. I don't understand what all the fuss is about."
The group of travellers includes several young children.
Staff at the lido admitted it was a "tense" situation, after their new neighbours had demanded to use the pool's toilets and showers.
The travellers claimed there was a risk their children might go to the toilet in the car park if their demands were not met.
"Not letting us in to use the facilities is discrimination," added the spokesman for the travellers. "We're neighbours now so we should be treated like neighbours."
A spokesman for the lido said the travellers had parked up overnight while the pool was closed.
"Some travellers have moved into the pay and display car park," he said.
"We've informed them that we are a charity and asked them to move on.
"We've sought legal advice and hope that they will move on over the weekend."
Lido chiefs have also consulted the council about providing the visitors with refuse bags.
A council spokesman said: "We have been to visit the site. The usual procedure is to make sure there are no real nuisance issues and that travellers have adequate refuse bags.
"As the land is private and is controlled by the lido, it is the lido's responsibility to ask them to leave.
"However we understand this will be a short stay."
Normally when faced with impromptu land occupation by travellers, landowners are advised to speak to them to reach an amicable agreement about when they will move on.
They can apply to the County Court for an order to force them to leave the site, but the process could take days.
As a last resort, the landowner could adopt a process known as 'self-help', carefully towing the caravans off the land if the travellers refuse to move.
However, they would be liable for any damage caused to the vehicles.
Police said they would not intervene unless there was a breach of the peace.