Cost of the Traveller Incursion on Claygate Recreation Ground
At around 5pm on Friday 3rd August 2018, two traveller caravans unlawfully accessed Claygate Recreation Ground via the Church Road gates.
A number of local residents present attempted to prevent further travellers gaining access and Surrey Police were called. After requests from the Police for residents to move their vehicles and themselves from blocking the recreation ground, residents complied with Police requests and then watched as 200 travellers, approximately 30 caravans, accessed the recreation ground.
Whilst residents were frustrated with this action, in the eyes of the law, trespass on land itself is not a crime - it is a civil matter. The duty of the Police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime. Eviction of trespassers is the responsibility of the landowner.
Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) are the land owners of Claygate Recreation Ground. The Trust informed EBC as their Landlord immediately and was informed that they would assess
whether to serve the travellers with a Notice of Direction to leave under Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. If they did not leave in compliance with this Notice, the Council would seek a removal order from the Magistrates Court. This process would have taken on average between 5 to 10 working days.
However, what was not considered was that Trust lease the land from EBC. Therefore it is, in the eyes of the law, private land. The CRGT leadership clarified this which led to a more expeditious removal of the travellers. Surrey Police remained on site during the evening of Friday 3rd August to help maintain the peace.
Once confirmed as private land, the Trust in liaison with EBC was able to instruct Bailiffs on Saturday morning to come on site and remove the travellers. The Bailiffs initially arrived at noon and were unsuccessful as the travellers resisted removal. On their second attempt with increased manpower at 3pm, they successfully started the process of removing the travellers with support from Surrey Police. By 9pm on Saturday 4th August all the travellers had left Claygate Recreation Ground - under 30 hours after the first illegal incursion.
Immediately after the last caravan had been escorted off, community volunteers and residents returned to the rec to begin the cleaning up. This process continued on Sunday morning with more than 100 volunteers coming to help bag up and clear the rubbish as well as rubbish left in the EBC playground, toilets and human excrement left in the woodlands and behind the Claygate Cricket Club (CCC) temporary accommodation. This fantastic effort by the Claygate community meant all the waste had been collected and moved ready for collection by the Church Road entrance by 1130am Sunday Morning. EBC organised collection of this waste the same day.
The CRGT wa