A rescue mission was launched after a vehicle belonging to a traveller visiting Seaham’s seafront gypsy camp was “mistakenly driven off the cliff”.
Police, firefighters and paramedics were called to the coastal spot today after the BMW X3 became stuck near to Seaham Hall car park.
It comes after 500 caravans and 2,000 people from Light and Life Gypsy Church moved on to a field on the cliff tops, usually used for the car boot sales off the B1287 Seaham to Ryhope Road during the weekend.
Firefighters from the town offered help to pull the vehicle up from where it came to rest, but the traveller refused assistance.
Meanwhile, Seaham Neighbourhood Policing Team has said it will be on hand to escort caravans off the land at 9am on Friday.
It follows an unannounced visit yesterday morning by Inspector Darren Walton and other officers, who found a service under way in the marquee when they arrived,
Extra patrols from police and street wardens will be carried out and every effort from all parties involved will be made to keep the area tidy.Durham Constabulary
The team has said the majority of the group will be leave at that point and “the relevant traffic measures will be put in place by the police and council”.
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary added: “Extra patrols from police and street wardens will be carried out and every effort from all parties involved will be made to keep the area tidy.
“This morning one vehicle was involved in an incident where it was mistakenly driven over the cliff top.
“This was attended by Inspector Walton and was a genuine accident. “No one was injured.”
HM Coastguard said it was called out to reports the car had gone over the cliff at Seaham Hall car park just after 9am.
A spokesman said: “On arrival it was established that the vehicle had gone over by the car boot field and stopped approximately 20ft down the cliff, thankfully the driver of the vehicle had managed to safely make there way back up to the cliff top.
“The vehicle was then recovered using a JCB, we spoke to the person involved and advised them that the cliff tops along the Seaham area are unstable.
“The driver explained that they were turning round but did not realise how close to the cliff edge they were.
“This incident had a happy ending but if it had been at another part of the cliff it could have ended with a different outcome.”
Also called to the incident were members of Hartlepool Coastguard, the area commander and the North East Ambulance Service.
The force has said anyone with concerns about the camp and would like to speak to Inspector Walton directly can contact him via 101.
Organisers of the gypsy church convention have “fully engaged” with the police, according to the inspector.
Meanwhile, Crows Nest Pub, on North Road, Seaham, closed on Monday until Friday after “various incidents”.
Colin Edwards, the manager of the pub, said: “Following various incidents over the last few days in and around Seaham, we’ve temporarily closed for the safety of our customers and staff.
“We thank the community for supporting us and we look forward to welcoming our customers back soon. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates.”
A car boot sale is held on the field each Sunday, organised by Nobles Promotions, whose managing director John Noble has insisted they have had “nothing to do” with the convention.
He said: “I’ve seen a lot of comments going against Nobles Promotions Ltd, but I just want to set the record straight that Nobles Promotions have had nothing to do with this whatsoever.
“We run the car boot sale there on a Sunday, and that’s all we do.
“I knew there was a religious convention planned for there, but I didn’t think it would be anywhere near as big as it has turned out.
“I spoke to the organiser of the convention yesterday, who gave me his word that the site would be left in a good condition.
“I’ve met about 12 of them, and they are not like the average travellers you meet. Every one of them was very pleasant.
“I don’t think we should judge them until they have left, and if they do the job as they say they are going to, there won’t be any problems.”
An unnamed Pastor from Light and Life Gypsy Church said: “We are here to preach the word of God, and we welcome any members of the public to our meetings. Nothing untoward is going on.
“The landowner didn’t want any money for us using the site, but we insisted, to make a donation to a local charity.
“We want to bring good to the area. We’re here to bring peace, not trouble.
“Every member of the public we have met has been very friendly and nice with us.
“We would like to thank the local police who we are working with for their co-operation.
“By the weekend, the event field will be completely empty and clean, and the last gospel meeting will be on Thursday night.”