Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 22 October 2009


I received an extraordinary letter this week from a senior police officer in response to my recent missive urging them to do more to tackle the outbreak of travellers we have experienced in this constituency in recent weeks. Various sites in Plympton and Ivybridge have been occupied by our nomadic friends.

The gist of the response was: not much point in moving them on as they will only go somewhere else and until local authorities provide the permanent places, what’s the point? I have responded with due dismay. This is not what we expect from our boys in blue. If anybody wonders why people are so upset by these invasions, just ask those who have to suffer them. When the travellers come to town, nuisance and litter and sometimes far worse, abound.

I understand the position of the police. It must be galling to expend the manpower in shifting these law-breakers on, knowing that they may well invade somebody else’s property just around the corner. But that is precisely what we wish them to do and when the criminal law has been broken, to take appropriate action. But somebody high up in Devon and Cornwall constabulary seems to have decided that this is a social problem and not a matter for them. I have had frequent complaints from land-owners and local authorities about the lack of co-operation from officers in carrying out what is admittedly a thankless task. The softly-softly approach also seems in part to be an over reaction to perceived ethnic sensitivity. It is not about ethnicity, it is about behaviour.

We have to go back to basic principles. Travellers may well have chosen their alternative lifestyle – good luck to them, but that does not give them the right to gatecrash private property. The reason local councils are not queuing up to provide permanent traveller sites is because their electorates do not want them in their communities. Look at the fuss about the one proposed for Efford. There is no evidence that even if provided the itinerants would choose to live there and when the sites provided by the tax payer are full up, the problem will be as great as ever. If there is a change in government this unpopular top-down pressure is likely to disappear.

Of course travellers have rights, but not to live on someone else’s land. The police should change their approach to this or risk losing public support.

posted by Gary @ 10:41