A small protest has gathered at a homeless community in Barnstaple this morning (Tuesday) as North Devon Council gets ready to evict campers.
Protestors have gathered at Seven Brethren this morning (Tuesday) over fears a homeless camp will be evicted.
The small group of homeless have been told they must leave the site where they have been camping for the last five months.
But those living at the site, and volunteers supporting them, claim the campers only moved there at the request of North Devon Council.
Nat Hyland has been living at the site all summer, and said he only found out about the eviction last night (Monday).
He said: “It’s not even a reasonable amount of time; we’ve been told we have to get out by 10am.
“I don’t know what will happen or where we are going to go.”
Nat said there were currently three men living at the camp, and two more had been due to join them, but had been scared off by the news.
He said: “We were all over behind Asda, where there is another community, but the police and council came and said they were shutting the site down. They sent us over here.
“I think the problem was this is a methane site, and they are concerned about having fires here.
“But I went out and bought incinerators to make sure it is all safe. We’ve never had any issues.
Kiz Angell, who helps run Survival Bags Home and Away and Bus Shelter North Devon, helped to organise a fundraising gig at the camp on Sunday
She said fire fighters and a council worker were on standby near the gathering, which had gone ‘without a hitch’.
“The guys at the camp cancelled the fundraiser yesterday as North Devon Council requested, and they are being evicted in the morning,” she said.
“There would have been over 50 people there had the fundraiser gone ahead but instead just few of us went to chill out at at the camp anyway and the lads did nothing wrong.
“There was no open fire and the fire brigade who who were called out by the council were happy with the camp safety.”
She was joined by several others this morning at the camp, and said they planned to stay there all day and protest the eviction.
North Devon Council’s response
Following a visit to the protest site this morning (Tuesday) the Gazette contacted North Devon Council for comment.
North Devon Council’s head of resources, Jon Triggs said: “It came to our attention that a bonfire and fireworks event on council land was being advertised on Facebook and we contacted Survival Bags Home and Away for more information.
“An event of this nature is extremely high risk and we were in agreement with both the police and fire service that this event should not be allowed to take place.
“Public safety is our priority and events on council land must be authorised for good reason - amongst other things, we require risk assessments and public liability insurance in the interests of public safety.
“Although it was described as a ‘private event’, the charity and those staying at the camp were inviting supporters and their children to the event, for a recommended donation of £5.
“We are committed to helping people who are homeless in our district and will support anyone who is affected by this action as best we are able.
“We continue to provide support, accommodation and financial assistance to alleviate and prevent rough sleeping in the community and have been active in engaging with occupiers at this location to assist them.
“Despite our advice, further posts on social media at the end of last week suggested that the event would still go ahead as planned without our permission, and we were very concerned.
“Our health and safety adviser and a police officer visited the camp on Friday to discuss the issue.
“We advised that the event on Sunday should not take place and we would also be given no option but to ask for those responsible to leave the ‘camp’.
“On Friday afternoon, a post on the Facebook page stated that the event had been cancelled.
“It was disappointing therefore that on Sunday evening an event did take place which included a fireworks display which had not been authorised by North Devon Council on our land.
“The safety of our public is paramount and recent press coverage about the importance of organised fireworks events has been actively campaigned; the event on our land was not authorised and the group were told of this at the end of last week and therefore we have no alternative but to ask the occupants who we have been tolerating on our land to move on.”