Chief constable backs transit sites for travellers

OPENING transit sites for travellers in Surrey will make it easier for the police to deal with illegal encampments, says the county’s chief constable.

Nick Ephgrave has weighed in behind Surrey’s police and crime commissioner in calling for temporary stopping places for caravans to be established.

Chief Constable of Surrey, Nick Ephgrave

Like commissioner David Munro, he says having transit sites available will enable the police to fully use their powers to end illegal incursions.

They have spoken out following an unprecedented number of unauthorised encampments across Surrey this summer.

Residents have become frustrated at the lack of swift action to move travellers off sites including Chobham Common, Wheatsheaf Green at Horsell, Brooklands in Byfleet, Pyrford Recreation Ground, St John’s Lye, West Byfleet, Pirbright, Brookwood and several other locations in the Woking area.

“No part of the county has been unaffected and, as the summer has passed, the amount of ill feeling and anger about a perceived lack of action by police has been palpable,” said Mr Ephgrave.

“The disappointing thing is that all of this was predicted and there is a practical solution available that would help.”

He said a number of surrounding counties had built transit sites, but they had not yet been implemented in Surrey. The law enabled the police to direct encampments to move immediately to a designated transit site if one was available.

“If those on the encampment refuse, or return to camp unlawfully elsewhere within three months they are liable to immediate arrest,” added Mr Ephgrave.

Currently, evicted travellers could simply move 100 yards down the road and set up camp there if there were no transit sites.

“We then have to go through the whole rigmarole again and this is exactly what has happened this year, with repeated encampments as we follow groups round the county, creating further upset and disruption far and wide.”

“The provision of even one transit site will make an enormous difference to our ability to respond to unauthorised encampments, but it is not in my gift to make it happen,” said Mr Ephgrave. “That is a difficult political decision that sits with our local leaders, who I know have the issue under active consideration.”

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