Council serves legal papers on Travellers camped at Derbyshire car park

Council chiefs have served legal papers on a group of Travellers currently camped on a Derbyshire car park.

More than two dozen caravans have moved on the Agricultural Business Centre (ABC) car park in Bakewell.

In March, Derbyshire Dales District Council successfully obtained an order to evict Travellers from the site.

Derbyshire Dales District Council's offices.

However, the court specified that the order could not be executed until coronavirus restrictions were lifted. This position was subsequently backed up by Government and police guidance.

Now the council has prepared an application to magistrates to test the strength of this guidance – and today’s papers served on the Travellers inform them this is happening.

However, eviction action will be dependent on magistrates being prepared to hear the case in light of Covid-19 priorities.

A council spokesperson said: “We are taking action in the community interest despite the main unauthorised encampment on land at Bakewell Showground not being owned or leased by the district council.”

On Friday night, council staff attempted to secure the site by closing off its car park and entrances at the ABC – but the perimeter of Bakewell Showground was breached, enabling further caravans to access the unauthorised encampment over the weekend.

The main car park entrance was reopened on Monday morning to enable the local farming community to attend a livestock market at the ABC – and the council has put in security staff to control the entrance.

Paul Wilson, the council’s chief executive, said: “We absolutely understand the concerns and anger of the local community about the current situation, but we have to make it clear that we can only act in this matter with the support of the courts.

“We have no authority whatsoever to simply clear the site.

“While it is the landowner’s responsibility to secure eviction, not ours, we intend to continue a legal process to remove this unauthorised encampment in the interests of local people.

“We also continue to put a lot of time and effort into securing the site, but anyone who knows Bakewell Showground will appreciate just how difficult this is, and, in this respect, we welcome the support of local police who continue to respond to the perimeter breaches that have happened in recent days.”

A Bakewell resident, who did not want to be named, described the site as ‘an absolute mess’.

“It is like a second Appleby,” they said.

The Appleby Horse Fair, hosted in Appleby, Cumbria, is an annual gathering of thousands of Travellers.

“There is toilet paper and other mess and rubbish everywhere and it is just horrendous,” the resident added.

“The tension in Bakewell is now very high, largely because the Travellers have been coming and going from the site all through lockdown.

“I don’t know why they would ever leave once they are provided with water and electricity.”