City council sets aside sites for gypsies arriving to see Pope in Birmingham
The city council is earmarking sites across Birmingham to accommodate future convoys of gypsies which may travel to the city hoping to see the Pope.
The local authority held an emergency meeting after a group of travellers descended on Sarehole Mill, in Hall Green, claiming they had travelled from Co Donegal in Ireland to see His Holiness say mass at Cofton Park.
Fearing that more travellers are heading to Birmingham for the Pope’s visit, the council said it was looking at finding suitable areas for them to stay, on a temporary basis.
And a special code of conduct is being drawn up to advise the gypsies how to treat the areas selected.
The council is also contacting other local authorities across Britain and Ireland to ask them to help send a message out to the travelling community that they will not be able to see the Pope say mass in Birmingham unless they have a Pilgrim’s Pass – and that these passes have now all been allocated.
Coun Mullaney said: “We are going to get the message over to the travelling community that there are no more tickets available for Cofton park. It’s full.
“They are not going to get vantage points around the park and it will be fenced off.
“We will be working with the neighbouring authorities and the Irish media to get the message out there that there is no point coming without a ticket.
“We will also be looking at authorised, temporary sites, where they can stay until after the Pope’s visit. If we do find an area, it will have a code of conduct.”
The travellers were ordered to leave Sarehole Mill, the historic city beauty spot which inspired Tolkien within 24 hours when they arrived on Tuesday.
They moved a few yards away onto Shire Country Park on Cole Bank Road, in Moseley.
And Coun Mullaney said the council had now served a seven-day eviction notice on them, which would be upgraded to a 24 hour notice if they have caused damage.
Pete Bennett, aged 70, from the Hall Green Residents Association and the Cole and Tin Brook Conservation Group, said the group had been in the area, moving from site to site, for about six weeks.
Mr Bennett, a retired local government officer, said: “The residents are not happy. It’s costing us money to pick up the rubbish and fix the gates.”
Parts of Cofton Park have been sealed off as the countdown begins for the Pope’s visit.
Construction workers have now moved on site around the car park area to lay out pathways.
Next week will see the construction of the stage where the Pope will say Mass, followed by areas for Bishops, VIPs and the choir.
The majority of Cofton Park will remain open to the public over the Bank Holiday weekend, but access to will become more and more restricted in the days leading up to the event.
Some 10,000 letters distributed to residents around Cofton Park to them advise of plans being put in place for the Papal visit.
For more information on the event, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk or www.thepapalvisit.org.uk.