Travellers set up unauthorised encampment in Plymouth

Travellers in Prince Rock playing field in 2023
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)


Travellers have again set up an unauthorised encampment in Prince Rock - the first of this year. The Prince Rock site has been a regular go-to site for Travellers over the past few years, with a large number of caravans and vehicles moving onto the ground, each year, around the May and June time and running through most of the summer.

The area has become a favoured site by Travellers and on each occasion the council has supplied toilets and bins as per its legal obligations, but has also secured Notice to Quit orders through the courts, allowing them to legally enforce the removal of the caravans and vehicles.

However, numerous pitiful efforts over the years to safeguard the site by locked gates and large blocks being placed at strategic locations around the field have regularly failed to deter the Travellers - with locks, gates and boulders being mysteriously missing, broken or moved.

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A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said on Thursday evening: "We are aware of an unauthorised encampment at Prince Rock Playing Fields. Council officers have visited to carry out welfare checks and have arranged for bins and toilets to be provided. A 48-hour Notice to Quit has been served.

"The unauthorised encampment at Coypool Park and Ride car park moved on on Thursday 16 May."

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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