RESIDENTS of Gargrave are calling for swift action to prevent the village's fast approaching open gardens event being impacted by travellers on their way back from Appleby Horse Fair.

More than 30 people, with around 20 horses and a dozen vehicles, stopped off in the village over the late May bank holiday weekend on their way to Cumbria for the event which runs from June 8 to June 14 and is attended by thousands of gypsies and travellers as well as many thousands more visitors.

Residents at Gargrave Parish Council meeting on Wednesday, which was attended by Sgt Paul Evans of Craven Police, reported some travellers allegedly defecating on the village greens and being abusive. Residents also complained of having to clean up large amounts of litter, and human faeces, after the travellers had moved on.

There were suggestions of providing temporary toilets and skips - but the meeting heard there were difficulties getting companies to provide toilets; there were also concerns that providing facilities could result in more travellers.

One resident said how she had felt threatened and vulnerable after being abused verbally after asking a man to stop urinating in the open and in sight of children.

On calling the police she had been told urinating outside was not an offence and that officers would not be attending. "I felt threatened, my friend felt threatened. That was not the response (from police) I thought should be expected," she said.

The same resident said how Hawes had a strategy that saw the town working with the many more travellers on their way through, it worked well and suggested the same thing ought to happen in Gargrave.

Many were concerned about the impact on the open gardens weekend, on June 17 and June 18, coinciding with the possible return of travellers heading home from Cumbria.

Sgt Paul Evans of Craven Police said the police response had not been adequate over the bank holiday weekend and said how he believed a more anti-social group than in the past had stopped off in Gargrave - a suggestion disputed by residents at the meeting.

He added the last two years had been more quiet because of Covid and said the way forward would be for everyone to work together to put a strategy in place for when the travellers returned.

That, he said, would involve the police working with the parish Council, the community and North Yorkshire Council and hopefully, a gypsy liaison officer.

Sgt Evans, who was forced to leave the meeting briefly, to respond to a report of an ongoing incident in the village, said police in Craven were very stretched, and that in order to move on a group of people of the size that had been in Gargrave, along with children, animals and vehicles, it would require a lot of officers and other agencies to comply with all the regulations.

But he promised to meet with the parish council, and others, to put together a strategy that could be enacted swiftly the next time the travellers arrived in the village.

He added in his experience of more than 20 years in Craven, fewer travellers returned home via Gargrave from Appleby Fair because many tended to move on to the East coast.

Gargrave had appeared to be a focal point for the travelling community this year, he added, while last year it had been Skipton's Aireville Park, just before the town's annual gala.

Parish council chair, Cllr Stephen Coetzer, said the parish council was very limited in what it could do and regretted some of the comments made on social media.

He said he and some residents would meet with Sgt Evans ahead of the open gardens event and work towards a strategy in time for next year.