Thursday, 29 March 2018

UPDATE: Illegal Traveller Encampments RFU Letter

Following a recent meeting with the RFU, the Police, Dene Estate residents, Council Officer, and Cllr Grant Healy, regarding illegal traveller encampments on the Rosebine field, the RFU have sent a letter to every household on the estate (see below).

Cllr Healy: “It's extremely encouraging that everyone involved can get together and not only understand the issues but also discuss what can be done practically to address them. Some gaps in intelligence gathering and procedures were discovered at the meeting I participated in, and ways of plugging them agreed. Let’s hope that there are no more such incursions and if there are they are for the briefest time possible.”

Dear Resident,

As you will be aware, there was recently a second unauthorised encampment on the Rosebine field. The RFU, Richmond Council and the Metropolitan Police have been working together to address this issue and to prevent it from happening again.

On the first occasion last year, bolt cutters were used to open the gates to force entry, on the second occasion; staff were threatened and assaulted as entry was forced. This clearly isn’t something which we want to happen again.

You will know from the behaviour which you have had to witness, that the situation is extremely unpredictable and can become volatile. As soon as the most recent encampment came to the attention of the RFU, we informed the police and Richmond Council, although we needed to wait until the Monday morning to obtain the eviction notice, which was served immediately. That notice was effective, and the field was vacated. The approach of the RFU, Council and Police is designed to prevent any escalation and to persuade the groups to leave as soon as possible. Should the entire legal process have to be followed, the encampment and anti-social behaviour can grow and last for some weeks or months. The timescale for action is:
  • RFU reports encampment to Richmond Council.
  • Richmond Council issues a 24-hour eviction notice (Mon – Fri)
  • If this is not obeyed, legal proceedings start, which can take up to three weeks.
  • If there is still no movement, options are considered as to site clearance.

The experience of the Council is that illegal encampments will usually leave before the clearance work starts.
A meeting was recently held to discuss this and address residents’ concerns at Twickenham Stadium between resident representatives, the RFU, Police, Richmond Council and the Police. The various agencies were able to answer some resident questions which we have had sent to us:
  • There is no link established between the two groups who have camped at Rosebine recently and no evidence that the field has been identified as a site of interest to them.
  • The RFU is not proposing to allow this field or any other part of our property to be used as camping sites.
  • Richmond Borough is not frequently affected by illegal encampments.
  • CCTV would not deter or prevent these incursions, as at other sites it has been disabled or ignored.
  • Rising bollards would not be practical to install at the entrances due to the lack of electrical supply and the resultant queues on the A316 when the field is required for use.
  • These groups are experts in both the law and on forcing entry – very little infrastructure will stop them and the police would require significant extra resources to force eviction.
  • The following measures were discussed and agreed in an attempt to minimise the risk of this happening again, and to help residents in the event that it does:
  • A dedicated 24-hour helpline to RFU security to report any suspicious activity. This will be given to residents’ chosen representatives.
  • A dedicated 24-hour helpline to Richmond Council, which will also be given to residents’ chosen representatives.
  • An information sharing system between Richmond Council, Police and RFU to let organisations know if there are groups in the borough who present a risk to the security of open sites.
  • An investigation as to whether eviction notices can be served at weekends with the necessary resources.
  • Such groups who have been illegally camped to be escorted out the borough by the police.
  • If at any point you are witnessing a crime or are threatened, phone 999. To report a crime which has already been committed, phone 101.

The very nature of breaking onto the land means that none of these measures can 100% guarantee that this will not happen again, but we believe that it reduces the risk considerably, and if it does happen it can be dealt with efficiently and promptly. In addition, you will now be aware of the processes which have to take place and the steps which are taken.

The RFU, Metropolitan Police and Richmond Council are all aware of the impact which these events have on you, and we will continue to monitor the situation and consider new tactics to prevent further reoccurrences.
Yours faithfully

Chris Donnelly,

RFU Community Engagement Officer