Police and council visit unauthorised Traveller camp in West Byfleet park

Travellers at West Byfleet recreation ground
-Credit: (Image: Reach plc)

Officers from the council and Surrey Police have visited an authorised encampment of caravans in West Byfleet. The teams visited the recreation ground on the morning of Wednesday, June 5, after being notified of the group’s arrival the previous night.

Surrey currently has no dedicated transit sites for Travellers, despite proposals for a site in Tandridge being mooted more than a year ago. Surrey Gypsy Traveller Communities Forum (SGTCF) has long campaigned for the need for a permanent transit site.

A Woking Borough Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that a number of caravans and associated vehicles assembled on West Byfleet Recreation Ground yesterday evening. Officers from Woking Borough Council and Surrey Police attended the unauthorised encampment this morning to carry out social assessments as required. The appropriate legal process to ensure that these vehicles move on is being followed.”

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A Surrey Police spokesperson added: “We were made aware of an unauthorised encampment on West Byfleet Recreation Ground on June 4. Officers attended the site this morning and will work with our partners at Woking Borough Council, who own the land, to monitor the situation.”

Speaking to SurreyLive in March 2023, a SGTCF spokesperson said: “Surrey does not have any temporary stop sites which means that people on the road have to find places which may not be popular with local people.

“No one wants to pull up to a place where there may be anger, rejection, sometimes abuse, and the requirement to move on quickly. This is especially difficult when there is a crisis such as needing to visit a sick or dying relative, when a safe and legal place to stay would make life so much easier.”

There is currently only one publicly owned Gypsy and Traveller site in Woking borough, at Hatchingtan, Worplesdon with space for 16 pitches. The Paddocks and Elm Farm in neighbouring Runnymede have space for 30 families. These are permanent sites with plots that the Traveller signs a licence and pays rent. This is different to a transit site.

The Government describes transit sites as permanent areas that provide only temporary accommodation for their residents. According to Woking Borough Council’s website it is committed to providing appropriate housing to meet the needs of the whole community, including sufficient suitable sites for the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople community.

There are also two privately owned sites in the borough, Five Acres, in Brookwood with 10 pitches and three pitches at Ten Acre Farm, Mayford.

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