Dozens of travellers are locked in a stand-off with residents after almost 20 caravans have pitched up on a Cornwall nature reserve.
The group of travellers are at loggerheads with residents after settling down in Bodmin, Cornwall for the last month, across a number of different sites.
The dispute erupted in June when Cornwall Council obtained an eviction notice after the group moved onto land by Bodmin hospital, before moving onto a car park.
Some caravans then moved onto private land off the A38 just outside Bodmin and another group set up camp at Bodmin Beacon Nature Reserve.
A private landowner brought in bailiffs to remove the encampment at the A38, who then moved back to the nature reserve.
Now the council has given the travellers until Friday July 26 to leave the land – if they don’t, police are planning to take enforcement action today.
A group of travellers have moved onto a nature reserve in Cornwall, causing a dispute with local residents
A local landowner blocks off part of his property with large hay bales and a locked gate
The travellers pitched up at the Dragon Leisure Centre football field, with a police car parked up
The travellers pitched up on a site near Bodmin Hospital, then moved onto the nature reserve
Guards have even been posted by some landowners to stop the travellers moving in.
Local authorities have also had to foot the bill for other evictions possibly totalling five figures so far.
The private land owner who removed the travellers from the A36, said: ‘The travellers occupied the private land off the A38 outside Bodmin on Monday July 22 at around 3.35 in the afternoon.
‘Following police and private requests they refused to leave.
‘We therefore had to exercise our common law rights as a private landowner by instructing bailiffs who attended the site and the group left on Tuesday 23rd at 9pm.
‘The costs were significant – over £5,000.
‘The travellers had come from a council owned site in Bodmin having already moved once before that and then returned to The Beacon AONB council owned site.’
Landowners have been blocking their properties in the area with tractors and hay bales
The council has taken enforcement action against the travellers who were asked to leave by Friday July 29
They were all then evicted on Thursday with reports some had then moved onto Dragon Leisure Centre football field while others had gone on to the village green in nearby Lanivet – a village a few miles outside of Bodmin.
Locals in Bodmin are thoroughly fed up.
One woman who regularly walks her dog at Beacon Nature Reserve said: ‘People are posting guards on their land because nobody knows where the travellers will turn up next.
‘Bodmin is a very friendly town but everybody is afraid of where these travellers will go.
‘I heard that one local was picking up litter near their camp and he was getting abused by the travellers.’
Before the travellers were evicted from the nature reserve one person posted on Facebook: ‘Just to let everybody know to steer clear of the Beacon whilst the travellers are in residence – please share as there are dogs running loose and would hate for anybody’s pets to get hurt.
‘Lots of groups are cancelling too that actively use the Beacon regularly – Bodmin Town Council will have to evict them yet again.’
A spokesman for Bodmin Town Council said ahead of the eviction from The Beacon on Thursday: ‘Officers from Bodmin Town Council and a PCSO from Bodmin Police attended the Beacon site and issued approximately 19 caravans and associated vehicles with Direction to Leave Notices, requiring them to vacate the site by no later than 12 noon on Friday 26 July 2019.
‘Whilst the Travellers could leave the site of their own accord at any time and in line with the Notice from 12 noon on Friday, it has been our experience that enforcement will be required and the authorities are currently following due process to achieve that aim.
A map showing the locations where the travellers have been setting up in the past month
‘Any anti-social behaviour or crimes witnessed by members of the public should be reported to the Police using the 101 system or using 999 in the case of an emergency.’
Devon and Cornwall police Sector Inspector James Honeywill said: ‘The past few weeks have seen a number of unauthorised encampments in the Bodmin area.
‘These have caused concern for landowners and members of the public and I can assure everyone that the police are conscious of this and have been working tirelessly by responding to incidents and working collaboratively with respective landowners and partners.
‘I am aware of numerous comments that have been made suggesting that the police and other agencies are not taking action in response to these issues and may be either unwilling, or frightened to do so.
‘I can assure everyone that this is not the case.
‘We have certain powers under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) 1994.
‘However, these powers have to be balanced against other legislation including The Human Rights Act and The Equality Act.
‘Trespassing is a matter for civil law and the onus is on landowners to take action through the civil process.
‘Police powers are only available in certain, very limited circumstances. For this reason, landowners have been largely responsible for taking action to evict trespassers.
This picture shows the travellers pitched up at Bodmin Beacon Nature Reserve, much to the consternation of locals
‘We have been closely monitoring the situation and taking into account all circumstances relating to each individual encampment.
‘On Friday 26th July 2019 I authorised the use of police powers under Section 61 of the CJPOA and written notices have been served by officers on the travellers at The Beacon site in Bodmin.
‘If the travellers have not left the site by the morning of Monday 29th July, the police plan to take enforcement action.
‘This decision has not been made lightly and we have considered numerous factors in that decision-making process, engaging with the traveller group in addition to Bodmin Town Council and Cornwall Council.
‘The police powers authorised for use on this site may not be appropriate for other sites.
‘We understand that this ongoing situation has caused a great deal of concern amongst members of the public and we ask the public to remain patient and keep an open dialogue with the police.
‘We will continue to respond to incidents and undertake high visibility patrols throughout the town.
‘We will continue to work with our partners in Bodmin Town Council and Cornwall Council in order to deal with this situation in both the short and longer-term.’