Town council seeks court order to evict group ‘at earliest opportunity’.

Travellers who set up camp in Barnstaple's Rock Park yesterday evening (Wednesday) say they have no immediate intention of leaving the park.

Around half a dozen caravans moved onto an area adjacent to the football pitches shortly after 6.30pm.

Town clerk Will Austin said he had spoken to the group this morning and was working with police, legal advisers and security to evict them at 'the earliest opportunity'.

He said: "The legal process we have to follow is frustrating but necessary. We hope to be able to obtain a court order within a matter of days and to carry out the eviction if the group has not left before then."

The encampment consists of five vehicles and caravans, 10 adults, 20 children and around 30 dogs. It is not thought to be the same group that set up in the park last September.

"I have spoken to them myself and whilst they say they will not leave any mess, they also state that they have no immediate intention of leaving the park," said Mr Austin.

"Although we understand the group's desire for a place to stay, the choice of Rock Park is completely unacceptable.

"It prevents the use of part of the park as a recreational and sports facility, and vehicle tyre tracks have already damaged the grass.

"We urge them to recognise this and move on without the need for a formal eviction, but we will use the law as swiftly as possible to ensure that their stay is as short as we can legally make it.

"There is a 'toleration site' on Seven Brethren to which they can move immediately, and which has facilities that make it a more appropriate location. They are not welcome in Rock Park."

Mr Austin said he had not received any reports of damage, other than tyre tracks and dogs' mess.

In September last year, Barnstaple Town Council obtained a county court possession order to give the council the right to take immediate possession of the land from a different group.

At the time, the travellers were warned that they could be forcibly evicted but eventually left under police escort after a five-day stand-off with council officials.

Anyone with any concerns can call Barnstaple Town Council on 01271 373311) or police on 101.

Are you one of those who is camping at Rock Park? We would like to hear from you and tell your side of the story. If you want to get in touch, email us at newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk or call 01271 345056.