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Pressure to mitigate effects of unauthorised traveller camps

Sunday, 11 February 2024 11:17

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

King George V Playing Fields, Plymouth. (Image courtesy: Google Street View)

Plymouth's council asked to do more

Pressure is being put on Plymouth’s council leaders to do more to mitigate the effects of unauthorised traveller camps after disruption was caused to communities last summer, it has been claimed.

Cllr Patrick Nicholson (Ind, Plympton St Mary) said not only had travellers pitching up in playing fields and parks resulted in “a considerable inconvenience” to residents but also in additional costs to the local authority.

The council can issue a ‘notice to quit’ to try and move people on but if this doesn’t work, it has to apply for a possession order through the courts to appoint bailiffs to evict them. This can take often take several days.

“Within a week of being re-elected to the council in May last year, an unauthorised encampment turned up in Glen Road and from that point across the city there were numerous others,” said Cllr Nicholson. “King George Playing Fields, Prince Rock Playing Fields, Tothill Park, Knowle Battery and many other sites, including Peacock Meadow in my ward of Plympton Colebrook, had authorised encampments having an impact on the local community.”

He commended work by the council’s community connections team, but said the authority needed to learn lessons from last year to improve the situation.

In a motion to the full council, which was accepted, he asked that a dedicated budget be considered and the council review its policy around authorised encampments.

“The impacts are so great that we need to be reassured of what actions the council can do, together with the wider community, to mitigate them and to preserve our green open spaces for sport, recreation and activity for our citizens. They are barred from using them when these sites are occupied by unauthorised encampments.

He said in Peacock Meadow, 20 caravans last year meant no-one could use the green space or the community centre next door.

“It needs to be on our radar as we don’t want to walk into another summer period when we are all affected across the city.

“It should not be the case that street services are not able to cut the grass so frequently or litter pick because they need to spend a few hundred pounds on moving some asbestos from playing fields or a heap of rubble that has been dumped unnecessarily in an inappropriate location.”

Cllr Terri Beer (Ind, Plympton Erle) said: “Whilst I accept that people have a right to live the way they wish, I cannot accept that they are allowed to take over and reside on our green spaces, play areas and pitches. Each year our street services budget is impacted and so the people of Plymouth feel the pain in delays in the delivery of projects that matter to them.”

Plymouth has a 13-pitch permanent gypsy and traveller site at Bayview but has not approved any others despite plans coming forward.

Last year it was reported that the council stumped up £7,000 to remove hazardous waste from Prince Rock Playing Field after travellers left.

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