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 was able to deem Claygate Recreation Ground open and ‘business as usual’ – with the gate opening reverting to normal. However despite everyone’s best efforts members of the public are asked to please take extra care as some dangerous items such as glass and dog mess may still remain.
Such swift and coordinated action would not have been possible without the Trust’s knowledge of the law and its legal rights. The Trust led and managed this eviction with support from numerous Trustees, EBC, Surrey Police and the Bailiffs. Chair of the CRGT, Helen Maguire would like to especially thank Vice-Chair David Tallis who coordinated the CRGT response. Helen also thanks all Claygate EBC councillors, Surrey Police and EBC for their assistance in this matter, especially Ian Burrows (Head of Leisure and Cultural Services) at EBC who gave up his time over the weekend to enable the Trust to liaise with the bailiffs in such a rapid and effective manner.
The Trust is also is also grateful to all the Claygate residents who contributed in what can only be described as a massive show of community support to protect our green space; from raising the alarm and challenging the incursion to allowing the right protocol to be followed and supporting the Trust so effectively in the clean up. It is a very clear reminder of how fortunate we are to be part of such an amazing community.
The CRGT has already taken short term steps to improve security at the Foley Rd and Church Rd gates and are developing an unauthorised encampment internal protocol in liaison with EBC for potential future Traveller incursions. Over the next few weeks, the CRGT will also be involved in a Borough wide security review of open spaces in liaison with Surrey Police and EBC to assess what else needs to be done to prevent further illegal encampments in the future.
The Trust have tried to get the cost for the Bailiffs recovered from EBC, however as the Trust are the party entitled to possession of the land, the Trust are therefore responsible for the costs of evicting trespassers. The Bailiff cost to the Trust for the eviction is just under £6,000. This is disappointing as the Trust had allocated this funding to the rebuilding of the Clubhouse, which will obviously have an impact on the rebuild project. CCC also sustained damage to their artificial cricket wicket which, depending on whether they can repair it or they need to replace it altogether, will cost up to £3,400. There was further damage done to the grass wickets, electricity and water supplies to the CCC temporary accommodation (Ashes cafe), and the grounds’ padlocks. The Trust are looking to gain some support for the eviction costs from other local Claygate organisations.
The Trust has successfully been managing Claygate Recreation Ground for 20 years. If you would like to support the work of the Trust, there are a number of ways that you can assist:
DONATE: Either contact Brian at email@example.com or donate here:
GET INVOLVED: If you are interested in getting involved further in the CRGT and live in Claygate, we currently have a vacancy for a Resident Trustee to join our amazing team of volunteers. If you are over 18 and would like to understand more about the position please email Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the CRGT:
The Claygate Recreation Ground Trust (CRGT) was set up in 1998 to manage and preserve Claygate’s Recreation Ground, adjacent woodland and clubhouse in an initiative set up between Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) and the community of Claygate, initiated by the late Cllr Hugh Ashton.
The CRGT is a registered charity (number 1067839) and is responsible for managing the finances of the trust and planning and implementing continuous improvements so that the recreation ground remains a focal point for the whole community.
The CRGT is made up of 7 locally elected trustees and 9 representatives from the following organisations; Elmbridge Borough Council, Claygate Parish Council, Claygate Royals Football Club, Claygate Cricket Club, Claygate Primary School, Claygate Flower & Village Show, Claygate Village Association, Claygate Youth Club, Holy Trinity Church.
The CRGT receives a yearly grant of £33,230 from EBC to run and implement continuous improvements on the recreation ground. The CRGT also relies on funds, charitable foundations and other grant sources to continue its work helping fund a number programmes including new pedestrian paths, wood clearance, improved drainage and the building of a Multi Use Games Area.
For more information: Damian Ross email@example.com, Helen Maguire firstname.lastname@example.org