Travellers in Surrey: Solution is ‘desperately needed,’ says PCC after numerous illegal encampments

July 11, 2018
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Surrey’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) has argued authorities’ response to unauthorised encampments in the county has improved but a long term solution is “desperately needed”.

David Munro’s statement comes after numerous illegal encampments across Surrey including in Guildford and Elmbridge.

Local residents have raised concerns over the rubbish left and behaviour of the groups which have pitched up on green spaces across Surrey.

One possible solution is to introduce transit sites for the travelling community which will help reduce the impact of unauthorised encampments, said the PCC.

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Unauthorised encampments in Surrey

Solution ‘desperately needed’

Residents across the county have voiced concerns and frustrations due to numerous unauthorised encampments, most recently in Shalford and across Elmbridge.

Complaints have prompted the PCC, local councillors and MPs to call for possible solutions to tackle the issue.

PCC Munro has praised the quick response of the force and local councils, however he insists that a long term solution is still “desperately needed”.

He has previously suggested introducing transit sites for travellers which will provide temporary stopping places for groups.

“I have received correspondence from different parts of the county where members of the public are concerned about the impact of unauthorised encampments in their local area,” he said on Wednesday (July 11).

“My office has looked into each and every occurrence reported to us and I believe the police and local councils working together have greatly improved their response in dealing with these encampments and moving them on where required.

An aerial view of the incursion in Aldershot
(Image: Kyle Russell)

Call for transit sites

“However, without the provision of designated transit sites to direct Traveller groups to, we are finding faster evictions are resulting in an increase in encampments with the same groups populating more locations in the county for shorter periods of time.

“This is inevitably causing an increased strain on police resources. It is important police treat everyone equally and remain completely impartial when dealing with criminality.”

He continued: “The vast majority of the traveller population are law abiding but if any associated criminality does occur then the police have a duty to respond as they would to any report.

“We must seek to find longer term solutions that both lessen the impact on our local communities whilst at the same time seeking to meet the needs of the travelling community.

“That is why I am continuing to call for the provision of transit sites in Surrey.”

Images show rubbish left after the group’s eviction from Shalford Common
(Image: Anonymous)

‘We are real people’

In a video provided by the PCC, local residents and representatives from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community talk about possible solutions.

Speaking on camera, Jackie Boyd, an English gypsy said: “Tens of thousands of gypsies travelling people around Great Britain have nowhere to stay.

“When they find somewhere permanent to stay they have to move to prove they are gypsy, it’s an impossible scenario.

“We haven’t got a voice – I’ve tried to talk to my councillor five times about planning permission, they don’t want to talk so what do we do?

“The government is going to have to approach it differently and understand we are not ‘these’ people but we are people.

“We have a way of life that has been accepted in countries for a number of years… we are real people.”

Mark Watson, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “The real solution to an unauthorised encampment lies in the lack of accommodation.

“People set up encampments simply because they have nowhere else to go.

“There’s need to be enough proper sites of all description for people to go – permanent sites, transit sites, stopping places…”

Sue Kilpatrick, chairman of the Cobham Downside Residents Association added: “You can’t put the same label on everybody but the public perception is that they feel threatened.”

Shalford traveller encampment ordered to leave after reported antisocial behaviour
(Image: Chris McKeon)

Antisocial behaviour

There have been numerous unauthorised encampments across Surrey in recent weeks.

A group of caravans and quad bikes at Shalford Common on Wednesday (July 4) and was ordered by the court to evict the site almost one week later after ignoring a council notice.

Images taken from the site show rubbish left following the eviction and Surrey Police confirmed numerous reports of antisocial behaviour, including a disturbance at a nearby pub.

A reported case of animal cruelty at Shalford Common was also confirmed by the RSPCA.

One day after the group’s eviction up to 50 caravans were spotted down the road at Shalford Park on Monday (July 9), however it has since been confirmed that the group have left the site.

In Elmbridge, unauthorised encampments have been set up in four different locations , including Esher and Cobham.

According to Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) specialist cleaning is required at two recreation grounds following the groups’ departures.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/travellers-surrey-solution-desperately-needed-14894921


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