RESIDENTS and councillors have been left furious after travellers moved into the Gas Works car park in Southend.

Witnesses reported seeing around 20 caravans based on the site, which is along the Eastern Esplanade, opposite Southend seafront, and residents have expressed fears of antisocial behaviour to councillors.

A concerned resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “A neighbour told me they were throwing bottles over the fence of the car park where they are, into the car park where the residents of my road are parked.

“I’ve now had to move my car away from where I park in case it gets damaged, as have a few other residents from down my road. We’re all worried this is going on. The council should’ve had barriers up to stop this happening.”

Councillor Martin Terry, said: “I’m absolutely furious. There’s been a long history of these incursions, this is gross incompetence to the highest order and a complete dereliction of duty.

“Now, an injunction will have to be taken out at the taxpayers’ expense. It will cost to clear them from the site and will cost to clean it after too.

“A number of residents are very concerned as the car park is surrounded by residential housing. It’ll bring a whole raft of issues. If this isn’t cleared in time for the bank holiday, there’s a risk we’ll lose serious revenue. This has let residents and businesses down, and I’m surprised at the level of incompetence that someone has had to even allow this to happen.

“If there was a height restriction in place, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Councillor Daniel Nelson, councillor responsible for community safety, said: “A few businesses have got in touch about antisocial behaviour issues, and there’s worries from residents of public drinking, swearing that kind of thing. People won’t go to the car park at all if something isn’t done.

“I’m in discussion with Councillor Buck to see what can be done. We’ve had a few ideas, like closing the car park overnight, get those ground spikes put in, that type of thing. We need people to feel safe.”

Southend Council is working with Essex Police to serve relevant notices, and have brought pre-planned on-site security forward a day in light of the situation.

A spokesman from Essex Police said: “We are aware of an unauthorised encampment at the Gas Works car park in Southend. Officers attended the encampment on May 21 to take details of the vehicles and their occupants.

“Following a report of anti-social behaviour, officers issued a code of conduct notice to those on the site.

“We have liaised with the land owner, Southend Borough Council, and will continue to monitor the encampment going forward. A Section 61 notice has not been served.”

Councillor Matt Dent added: “The fact there are no height restrictions in place makes it more accessible to them than any other car park in that area.

“When it’s finally open it will be good news for the town, parking for coaches has definitely been a problem in the past. I’m aware of the concern that having the car park here is a lot further out than it was hoped for, I definitely see that point. But, having parking on the seafront for the summer will be amazing for the town.”