Concerns raised after Travellers moved on from Plympton park

Concerns have been raised after Travellers moved on from a Plympton park where they had been parked up for nearly a week.

Plymouth City Council confirmed this morning that the unauthorised encampment at Harewood Park, next to the Ridgeway shopping centre, had moved on, although at this point they could not confirm where the group had moved to.

Cllr Terri Beer, independent councillor for Plympton Erle, highlighted the group's arrival on June 23, lamenting how it put the cricket pitch out of use for local clubs.


She took to her Facebook page to observe that a bollard appeared to have been removed, which allowed the numerous caravans and vehicles access to the neatly tended field.

During the week she kept residents informed, explaining that legal procedures had to be followed by the council, regardless of people's wishes.

She wrote: "This is always a hot topic of debate when we have unlawful encampments in our area. As Councillors we have to follow the letter of the law but having said that all Independent Councillors are proactive. We visit sites and speak to the communities and try and glean information.

"Cllr Cllr Andrea Loveridge working for Plympton Erle Ward and I have been known to start clean ups to assist the council and also show our residents that we want their green space returned to hem as soon as possible.

"What isn't right is to blame Councillors because we do everything we can to move things a long and often it takes over our lives as my husband would tell you."

She went on to explained the council's procedure on tackling unauthorised encampments, beginning with a Notice to Quit and then court proceedings.

Council chiefs confirmed they issued a Notice to Quit on Tuesday June 25 - which was ignored - and were preparing to go to court this week to seek a possession order, which will no longer go ahead.

The council stated at 8.30am this morning: "The unauthorised encampment at Harewood Park has moved on. A clear up of the site is being arranged for today."

In response a number of residents took to social media sites to question why action was not taken sooner and what can be done to prevent them moving onto land regularly used by the local community.

One wrote asked why it took so long to move them on adding: "I'd find it easier to understand if it were a patch of grass next to a roundabout, or a waste bit of green space like up near Langage, but a cricket pitch or a historical site of importance?

"I can't get my head around it. They must surely have some kind of legislation that could be thrown at them and be forced to move immediately."

Another suggested: "We should charge them a daily rate based on Council Tax charge ..they wouldn’t stay in Plymouth then."

One voiced what many were obviously thinking, questioning "where will they go next" with some suggesting that Underwood recreation ground, often referred to as St Mary's playing field, would be targeted.

However, Cllr Beer said the ward councillors responsible for that area had already been alerted and "have it in hand".

What is a Notice to Quit?

If the land is council owned, the council can issue a Notice to Quit. A Notice to Quit gives Travellers 48 hours to vacate the area.

If Travellers fails to do so, the council has authority to escalate proceedings and apply through the court to have the groups removed. If it is not council owned, it will be down to the landowner to take action.

What does the law say?

Travellers have been a part of British culture for hundreds of years. Councils across the UK have a duty of care to Travelling communities and all have designated areas where groups can stay.

The city council has a dedicated transit site called The Ride near Saltram, in Plympton, where Travellers can park caravans and have access to electrical power sockets and water. If an encampment is reported on public land or local parks, the council has to apply to the civil court for an eviction order.

If a camp is set up on private land it is the responsibility of the landowner to apply to the court for an order. In both cases it is down to bailiffs to enforce eviction orders and move Travellers on.

Police officers have no powers to remove Travellers unless they receive reports of "aggravating factors" such as disorder, antisocial behaviour, or crime. Plymouth police used Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in June 2021 to order Travellers at St Mary's playing field in Plympton to leave the site or see their vehicles seized. It is believed to have been the first time Plymouth police made use of the legal power.

At the time Plymouth City Council was set to go to Plymouth County Court to secure a possession order, but police said they took action after receiving a number of reports from local residents regarding antisocial behaviour and criminal activity.

Click here to join PlymouthLive on WhatsApp and we'll send breaking news and top stories directly to your phone. We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners. If you don’t like our community, you can check out any time you like. If you’re curious, you can read our Privacy Notice.