Travellers set for eviction as more arrive in Plymouth

Knowle Battery playing field where large group of Travellers have set up an illegal encampment
-Credit: (Image: submitted)


Caravans belonging to Travellers have parked up on playing fields in West Park, council chiefs have confirmed - while others at Prince Rock are in the process of being moved along after the expiry of an eviction notice.

Last week PlymouthLive reported how a number of caravans appeared at Prince Rock playing fields, which has long been a favoured place for Travellers to set up an unauthorised encampment. Plymouth City Council has made attempts over the years to secure the site with locks, gates and boulders, all of which appeared to have been missing, broken or moved prior to the arrival of the caravans and vehicles.

The council said that as per its legal obligations, council officers visited the site to carry out welfare checks and arranged for bins and toilets to be provided.

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In addition, a "48-hour Notice to Quit" was served. The council has now confirmed the notice had "now expired" and as a result "a possession hearing is taking place today [May 28]."

In August 2023, PlymouthLive reported how a large pile of asbestos tiling was dumped at Prince Rock shortly before a group of Travellers left the area. At the time the council confirmed that it had to close the playing field "for a few days" after hazardous waste had been discovered.

Meanwhile, the council have confirmed they were alerted to two caravans in the area of Ringmore Way, West Park.

A council spokesperson said: "We are aware of an unauthorised encampment at Knowle Battery. Council officers have visited the site and arranged for the encampment to be provided with bins and toilets. A 48-hour Notice to Quit will be served at the earliest opportunity."

Travellers in Prince Rock playing field in 2023
Travellers in Prince Rock playing field in 2023 -Credit:Submitted

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.

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