A NEW peace-seeking group will be set up in an attempt to solve the problem of travellers who set up camp in a town on their way to and from an annual horse fair.

The group will try to end disputes, which have erupted every summer in recent years over travellers camped next to the River Tees, in Barnard Castle.

News of the group's launch was announced yesterday as 32 caravans, 22 horses, 18 vehicles and several open fires had taken up residence on the site, known as the Demesnes.

The group will consist of two members of Teesdale District Council, Ken Coates and Newton Wood, who will invite local residents and travellers' representatives to join.

Councillor Coates said: "We can't go on having trouble every year.

"We'll listen to all views and try to find a solution in time for next summer."

The travellers arrived early this year en route to Appleby Fair, which starts next month.

They say the land is perfect for them as it is flat, with pubs and shops nearby, and they can wash their horses in the river.

More than 80 residents have signed a petition saying the travellers cause a nuisance.

In the past, there have been protests about noise, litter and the dumping of toilet waste.

Coun Wood said: "The main problem is where the travellers will go if we stop them using the Demesnes.

"What if they moved to the main car park, or the cobbles in the town centre?

"Our group will look at all the facts, gather opinions and try to find a way to make things better."

Mark Ladyman, Teesdale District Council's director of community services, will be invited to join the group, as will a member of Durham County Council's staff, who is employed to deal with travellers' issues.

One man, whose home overlooks the site, but who asked not to be named, said: "These visitors have been causing chaos for weeks on end every year, so any attempt to solve the problem has to be welcomed."