Traveller Encampment cleared from Rock Park
Following on from today’s earlier statement below, I am pleased to report that swift action by Barnstaple Town Council has resulted in the travellers moving on from Rock Park. Notice was served by the Council at 4.00pm today (Thursday 21st May) that enforcement officers would attend to evict the encampment at 10.00am tomorrow (Friday 26th May). The threat of enforced eviction prompted the group’s departure. I understand that some have moved to the ‘toleration site’ run by North Devon Council, but that some have set up camp on private land nearby. This is deplorable, and the Police have been informed. I will be advising the landowner of the action we have taken so that similar measures can be adopted if needed.
Regrettably the group has left a significant amount of rubbish and we will work to clear this on Friday. Again, this is despicable behaviour. The law as it stands makes it virtually impossible to recover the cost of the clearance from the travellers unless we have an address for each of them, and naturally this information is almost impossible to ascertain given their nomadic lifestyle. I will be writing to the appropriate Government minister to point out this weakness in the community’s rights, and the impact on the local taxpayer.
Nevertheless, Barnstaple Town Council is relieved to have restored the whole of Rock Park for public use, fewer than 24 hours after the encampment was set up. The community can now look forward to the annual Picnic in the Park event on Sunday proceeding without worrying about the effect of an illegal incursion into Rock Park.
Yesterday (Wednesday) evening I was notified that travellers had set up camp in Rock Park, and am working with the Police, legal advisers and security support to evict them at the earliest opportunity. The legal process we have to follow is frustrating but necessary. We hope to be able to obtain a court order within a matter of days and to carry out the eviction if the group has not left before then.
The encampment consists of five vehicles and caravans, ten adults, twenty children and approximately thirty dogs. This is not the same group that set up in the park last September. I have spoken to them myself and whilst they say they will not leave any mess, they also state that they have no immediate intention of leaving the park.
The Town Council considers this unlawful incursion into Rock Park a disgrace. It prevents the use of part of the park as a recreational and sports facility, and vehicle tyre tracks have already damaged the grass. We are very sorry for the inconvenience to users of the park, and I can assure residents that I am entirely focused on obtaining a court order so that the encampment can be removed as a matter of urgency. We aim to have an order for possession of the park by tomorrow (Friday), and if possible to have bailiffs at the ready to remove the encampment immediately. Naturally we are in the hands of the court and the bailiffs in meeting this aim, but I hope residents will be reassured that we are doing everything possible to return the park to normal use.
Although we understand the group’s desire for a place to stay, the choice of Rock Park is completely unacceptable. We urge them to recognise this and move on without the need for a formal eviction, but we will use the law as swiftly as possible to ensure that their stay is as short as we can legally make it. There is a ‘toleration site’ on Seven Brethren to which they can move immediately, and which has facilities that make it a more appropriate location. They are not welcome in Rock Park.
Other than the tyre tracks and dog faeces I have not received any reports of damage caused to the park while the group has been there. However, should anyone have any concerns in this regard, the Town Council (call 01271 373311) and the Police (call 101 or 999 in an emergency) would naturally want to hear from them. We would also urge people not to engage with the group in any way that might inflame this already difficult situation.
Town Clerk, Barnstaple Town Council
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