A GROUP of travellers smashed through gates to pitch up in a park.

At least six caravans and vehicles have been spotted in Shotgate Park, Wickford after breaking into the site.

Basildon Council bosses say a leave notice has been issued to the travellers.

Concerned residents claim the travellers were using hand pistols to fire shots into the sky and vandalising a Second World War bunker in the park.

A Shotgate resident, aged 67, said: “We have an encampment that’s the largest in Shotgate Park I have seen in the 22 years I’ve lived here.

Southend Standard:

Scene - the encampment at Shotgate Park, Wickford

“The children seemed to be attacking the Second World War wooded areas.

“The people whose houses back directly onto this have our sympathy.

“Police and the fire service were called after they lit a big fire and they partied late into the night.

“Our house is 60 yards from the park entrance and we are not comfy with this.

“I also heard what I believe to be a hand pistol being fired at 6.20am but I feel they were discharging into the air towards the sky.”

But some residents have defended the travelling community online.

One woman said: “I am all for the gypsy and traveller community and will always support them and am also aware you do get bad eggs within the community.

“We have a lot more bad eggs living in houses and I have witnessed first hand the abuse this community receives.

“People in houses cause trouble too.

“Travellers do a lot for our community such as the donations they make to women and children in refuges at Christmas.

“Yes of course there will be bad apples but not all of them are and it’s a cultured society but we don’t accept their culture.”

David Harrison, Wickford Independents chairman of the neighbourhoods and public spaces committee, said: “Council officers and police worked hard to get the Section 61 Notice approved and to be enacted.

“It was a busy time - and thanks to those members of the immediate proximity of the park who contacted the police about the behaviour of those in the park, which helped to enable the Section 61 Notice to be approved.”