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, 14 August 2014


It is that time of year when a number of people variously described as gypsies or travellers descend upon us and create havoc.  Over the past two weeks we have had incursions into several sites in Plymstock and Plympton and many constituents have contacted me and local councillors. We are doing all we can.

Nothing winds me up more than the illogical and inadequate way we currently deal with this group of trouble makers. Some local authorities consider them to be vulnerable communities and treat them with kid gloves. As we know, some also provide permanent sites for them at tax payer's expense, something I have always opposed.

These "vulnerable people" descend with their large and expensive vehicles on private or publicly owned land which they then aggressively occupy for as long as they can get away with.

This is bad enough, but sadly during most periods of encampment, the local neighbourhood experiences trouble. The shameful mess these unlawful occupants leave behind is obvious for all to see, which is then cleared up at tax payer's expense. Police officers frequently report a spike in minor crime during these periods, although this is rarely confirmed officially. Many constituents have experienced aggression first hand.

Fortunately Plymouth and Devon councils are both skilled at triggering the court process to remove these interlopers and it usually takes about 3 weeks. In almost every case I have known, the travellers leave the day before the court orders their eviction, which the police can then impose, with force if necessary. They know the law better than we do and exploit it mercilessly.

The law has been tightened up a few years ago, but in my opinion still remains unsatisfactory. I and several other MPs have tried to persuade parliament to introduce even more robust laws, notably that trespass itself should be a criminal offence, which it currently is not. Part of the problem is that the blight of traveller nuisance affects only certain parts of the country. Very few MPs representing City or northern constituencies are ever troubled by these incidents and cannot relate to the experience of those of us who do.

Until the law is changed, it is vital we do all we can to defend ourselves locally. I urge both councils to serve and process the legal documents in every case at the earliest opportunity and minimise the disruption and pain to local hard working or retired tax-paying law abiding families. 

posted by Gary @ 09:37