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Derbyshire townsfolk outraged as council cannot evict Gypsies

today31 August 2022 1

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There is major upset in a Derbyshire town as officials are unable to evict a homeless family of Travellers from a site close to the centre. After a week of friction between residents in Ashbourne and the occupiers of a swelling Traveller encampment, Derbyshire Dales District Council has admitted they are unable to evict the groups from the “temporary tolerated site”.

A family which identifies as Romani Gypsies was first told to move onto Ashbourne’s coach and car park off Clifton Road on Friday, July 24 and the council initially said it would be a temporary site for up to eight weeks – and that eight weeks should expire on Friday.

But since then, councillors have failed to identify an alternative site and this means, despite reports of anti-social behaviour from the encampment, there is nowhere to move the Travellers to and they cannot be evicted.

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The council has said, however, that a separate encampment set up on Saturday on council-owned land adjacent to the temporary tolerated site, occupied currently by two caravans, is in the process of being moved on.

A district council spokesman told the Ashbourne News Telegraph: “The homeless family on site at Clifton cannot be evicted. Our homelessness duty remains and as no alternative site has been identified we cannot remove them from their current encampment.

“However, our officers are currently on site gathering the information that they need to legally serve a Direction to Leave to the additional Travellers. The documents will be served later today.

“We already have an application in with the court to remove the additional Travellers on the ‘main’ site and we have been chasing for a court date and will continue to do so.”



More caravans moved on to a nearby patch of land over the weekend
More caravans moved on to a nearby patch of land over the weekend

The authority has also recently installed a standpipe to supply the main site with fresh water, which they say is to help meet their legal duty to provide a suitable temporary site.

In July, the council published a draft code of conduct, which is aimed at ensuring Traveller families can live harmoniously among their neighbours while on temporary tolerated sites.

The rules include keeping the number of caravans to the originally agreed limit, not making too much noise, controlling dogs on site and not committing any criminal acts, including anti-social behaviour.

Last week police were called to investigate an alleged sexual exposure offence related to the site and, on Saturday, Ashbourne’s retained Fire and Rescue crew were called out to tackle a small grass fire on the encampment.

Derbyshire Constabulary, however, says investigations into the sexual exposure claim have now closed. A force spokesman said due to “evidential difficulties” officers are no longer able to take the matter further.

Ashbourne’s volunteer litter-picking group Proud of Ashbourne recently reported that litter had been building up on the path behind St Oswald’s Hospital, metres from the encampment, and members had also found an area apparently being used as an open toilet, with “human faeces” and sanitary wipes evident.

Derbyshire Dales District Council is duty bound, under the Homelessness Act, to find a permanent site for two families who wish to settle in the Derbyshire Dales but, despite exhaustive and costly searches, bosses have failed to secure any land to move them to.

Meanwhile Ashbourne Town Councillors have started to lobby the district council for a better solution, and Councillor Denise Brown has written a letter to bosses and councillors, explaining she has been “inundated with concerns” from her ward members and particularly users of the nearby health centres.

She asked them to urgently reconsider their decisions for choosing the coach and car park, which she says is “totally inappropriate”.

She said: “It just doesn’t seem a suitable site in any way. It was only supposed to be a temporary site, and everybody deserves a chance, but it just isn’t working. It’s coming to a head and it’s getting worse.

“More and more people are getting in touch with issues. When it was four caravans there wasn’t a big impact, but now there’s nine and we’re getting reports of anti-social behaviour, which doesn’t appear to be getting sorted out. So it’s time something was done.”

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