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, 18 July 2013


Every summer our region suffers the challenge of travellers descending upon us. It is time that we took a more robust approach to tackling the menace they bring.

If people wish to live a nomadic life, that is a choice they are free to make. But they are not free to crash into land owned by someone else and turn it into a rubbish tip. I do not care what ethnicity they are or where they come from. What most of us object to is their unacceptable behaviour.

Their recent incursions into Horshams Field at Staddiscombe were an example. They turned up unannounced, occupied fields used for rugby matches by local youngsters and adults, causing widespread inconvenience and disappointment, stayed there until they were about to be evicted and left the place in an absolutely disgusting state. They are currently gracing us with their presence at Langage with the usual impact on the immediate area.

As I have said for many years, we have got our approach to this problem horribly wrong. Some people consider them to be vulnerable groups who need our support. That is not my experience of having met with several such groups. I have found them to be invariably robust families who know exactly what they are doing and who are very skilled at playing the system for their own ends. They are never short of a bob or two and I imagine that HMRC are not collecting too much from their industry.

Two things need to happen. First local authorities need to be much more robust in implementing the existing law. As soon as their armada is spotted, the courier to the court with the necessary papers should be despatched. Anecdotal evidence from around the country suggests that councils that deal with them swiftly and firmly are less likely to receive repeat visits.

Secondly, it is time to change the law so that trespass of this kind becomes a criminal offence enabling the police to eject without waiting for a court order. I recognise the manpower involved in ejecting people against their will, but maybe Devon and Cornwall Police could develop a flying squad-type team of experts.

Where could they go then? They might try and rent or buy places like the rest of us, or negotiate temporary visiting rights subject to certain conditions.

One stipulation would be that they would clear up after themselves and not leave such a disgusting tip behind them.

posted by Gary @ 15:54