Need for traveller transit sites has never been greater, says police commissioner following Ashtead incursion

August 21, 2018
By

Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has said the need for transit sites for travellers has “never been greater” as he met with concerned Ashtead residents to discuss unauthorised encampments.

Surrey Police and Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) also attended the meeting at St George’s Church on Tuesday, August 14 which was organised by Steven Kershaw, who has lived in the village for nearly 22 years.

An unauthorised encampment of about 35 caravans and other associated vehicles moved onto Ashtead Recreation Ground on Wednesday, August 8 for 48 hours.

They were moved on by police under a Section 61 order.

Read More

More from Mole Valley

But damage that was found at the recreation ground, along with rubbish, after the the group left, prompted calls for action to prevent further incursions.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday last week, PCC David Munro said he was “in Ashtead, about to talk with residents on the recent unauthorised encampment that has caused so much damage”.

During the meeting, members of the public shared their experiences of the incursion and explained the extent of the residents’ clean-up effort.

“He (the PCC) dropped everything and made himself available which was really great and the police knew that if the PCC was coming along they would be in support of him,” said Mr Kershaw.

In a statement, PCC Munro said he was impressed by the passion and commitment of the 140 or so residents who came to share their points of view.

“I appreciate that this encampment has caused some disruption and concern to the local community and I do understand the frustrations of residents,” he said.

“It is important to me that as a police service we engage with the Surrey public on issues such as this and I was keen to attend the Ashtead meeting to hear residents’ concerns and discuss how we can address them within the resources available.”

Councillor David Hawksworth, cabinet member for wellbeing at MVDC and district councillor for Ashtead Common, attended with Superintendent Chris Colley, senior Surrey Police lead for Mole Valley, and Inspector Karen Coyne, Ashtead neighbourhood lead, also attending.

“That 48 hours has been the worst 48 hours since I have been in Ashtead,” continued Mr Kershaw. “It makes you feel that you are in some war-torn world.”

Rubbish was found at Ashtead Recreation Ground
(Image: Grant Melton)

Mr Kershaw also commented on the importance of speaking about these problems face to face, as opposed to over online mediums.

He said: “For once in a long time we went back to the old days of community engagement. There’s nothing like looking an aggrieved person in the face and listening.

“The aim of the meeting was to get people back together again, not just being keyboard warriors, and that was absolutely achieved.”

St George’s Church hosted the meeting, but wanted it to be made clear it was a neutral facilitating venue and did not take a view.

Elmbridge granted three-month injunction BANNING unauthorised traveller encampments

On August 9, PCC Munro responded to a backlash from a series of tweets sent from the Elmbridge Police twitter account, admitting that the tweets may have given the impression that police deal with crimes linked to travellers more leniently.

Following the meeting in Ashtead, Mr Munro reiterated his “firm view” on unauthorised encampments, and promised to review the actions of the local police.

“I have previously stated publicly that my firm view is any criminality associated with unauthorised encampments must be dealt with swiftly but fairly,” he said.

“I also reiterated my wish in the meeting to see the provision of transit sites around the county to provide temporary stopping places for travellers in Surrey.”

On Thursday, MVDC confirmed it had put two concrete blocks in place at the entrance to Ashtead Recreation Ground, but highlighted that this was a temporary measure ahead of a robust metal gate being installed.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/need-traveller-transit-sites-never-15040619


Famous Words of Inspiration...

Tags: