Last Modified: Thursday, 22nd July 2021
On Wednesday morning, the Town Clerk and the Town Mayor had a very productive meeting with the Police Inspector for Hart, Jennifer Lovegrove, and the Hart District Council Community Safety Manager to review the handling of last weekend’s situation with the unauthorised traveller encampment in Yateley, and to discuss community concerns, preventative action and site security.
We are grateful to residents who report unauthorised encampments to us quickly as it allows us to act fast. As soon as the Council becomes aware of an unauthorised encampment on Council land, there are set processes and actions that we must follow in order to resolve the situation. We instruct bailiffs under civil law to repossess the land when an encampment occurs. Initially, the bailiffs will give the travellers 24 hours to vacate the site, after which the bailiffs return to carry out the eviction. As this eviction is a civil action, it applies only once to the site occupied by the encampment at that time, meaning that it is not possible to evict the group from an entire town or for a long period of time. It is possible to go through the courts to bar the individual group from a set area, but this would not apply to all unauthorised encampments and is a longer process, which would mean that the encampment would not be asked to leave for several weeks.
The Council will always act as quickly as possible. For example, last weekend the Council had contacted bailiffs within 30 minutes of the encampment arriving. However, the due process must be followed and therefore evictions cannot take immediate effect. The Police have powers to removed unauthorised encampments, but this is not always necessary. Under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, powers can be considered by the Police if there is significant nuisance or criminal behaviour, unacceptable levels of damage to land or property to gain entry or remain, or danger to travellers from the chosen site, such as environmental health factors. It is for this reason that it is important to report information on any crimes that you may witness to 999 or 101 as appropriate.
In terms of preventative measures to stop further encampments, every traveller encampment is different and is evaluated separately. We cannot treat each group as the same; they must all be treated fairly and in line with equality legislation. The Police and the Council balance the needs and rights of our community with actions that are proportionate, lawful, appropriate and necessary.
We are currently reviewing our land to identify areas in need of better protection. Options that work in harmony with our beautiful public open spaces and offer greater security will be considered. It is important to note that no measure will be 100% effective, but we hope to find workable solutions to enable a greater level of protection to the most vulnerable areas.
It is our job to support the community the best we can, and we hope that this information explains the process undertaken when there is an unauthorised traveller encampment in the parish.
Cllr Gerry Crisp – Town Mayor
Cllr Stuart Bailey – Leader of the Council
Rochelle Halliday – Town Clerk