Travellers pitch up at leisure centre after police forced to move riot van which was blockading car park

Dozens of travellers pitched up at a leisure centre after "powerless" police were forced to move a riot van which was blockading the car park. A fleet of 22 caravans, 4x4s and luxury cars invaded Perdiswell Leisure Centre in Worcester on Sunday (26/2) afternoon. Leisure centre staff called police and officers tried to stop the travellers taking over the site by parking a riot van across the entrance. In chaotic scenes, the travellers caused traffic jams in nearby roads while gym goers were trapped inside the car park. Officers were forced to move their vehicle to let customers out but were powerless to stop the convoy of caravans from barging their way onto the site. A West Mercia Police spokesperson said: "We were here to prevent a breach of the peace. "The land is council property and we are waiting for direction from the landlords." Pictures show caravans crowding onto the car park which is owned and run by Worcester City Council. Leisure centre staff bravely tried to stop the travellers from invading the site while they waited for police to arrive. One employee said: "Three of us stood in front of the vans trying to stop them from coming in and waited for the authority. "While we were there, someone went to call the police. "They were shouting in our faces, but we tried to keep calm, and I think we handled it well. "We then tried to shut the barrier, and they started driving towards it. "We opened the barrier then, as it started to become dangerous with all the threats flying around." Another added: “We had numerous customers come in saying travellers have arrived. "It was scary." Meanwhile staff held up signs letting parents know that swimming lessons were still on despite the illegal encampment. One parent said: “It’s a nightmare and the police are completely powerless to stop them. “To be fair to the officers down here they tried to stop the travellers from coming onto the site but had to move to let leisure centre users leave the car park. “As soon as they moved their van the caravans piled in. The streets around here were deadlocked for hours.” At least 11 caravans and 11 vehicles have been spotted in the carpark and bin bags of rubbish looked to have been dumped on the new site. Residents fear the leisure centre, which has recently undergone a £10.5 million revamp, will be “easy pickings” for travellers in future. One woman who lives on nearby Bilford Road added: “We’ve had a few issues with travellers over the years but this was ridiculous. “It was clearly deliberately targeted by these people who are exploiting loopholes in the law. “They know they won’t be asked to move on for a few days so they take the place over while the police and authorities do nothing. "My fear is that now travellers know they can move onto the site without anyone stopping them, it'll be easy pickings forever more."