Residents clash with Travellers as they move on to Derbyshire burial ground site

There were angry exchanges after Gypsy and Traveller families parked a number of caravans on a consecrated Derbyshire site set to become a burial ground.

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 8:04 am

The site, in Derby Road, Doveridge, bordering the A50, had a fence with padlock and a number of large concrete blocks in place to prevent illegal entry.

However, late on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the padlock on the gate was broken open and the concrete blocks were moved, with five caravans and other vehicles now parked on the would-be burial ground.

A series of heated stand-offs and confrontations are said to have taken place between the Gypsy and Traveller families and local residents.

A local resident with a forklift truck lifted concrete blocks back into place to prevent the families from leaving

A number of local residents are said to have parked their vehicles across Derby Road to prevent any further caravans from accessing the site and to prevent the families from leaving.

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A local resident in possession of a forklift truck is also said to have lifted the concrete blocks back into place to prevent the families from leaving – while also allegedly confronting the families and demanding that they vacate the area.

The concrete block preventing access and egress has been moved again.

One of the families who are now on the site are one of the two families who have formally declared themselves homeless to Derbyshire Dales District Council.

The district council has a legal obligation to accommodate the family on the Doveridge site, along with a second family currently staying on the Matlock train station car park.

However, it must have either a temporary tolerated site or a permanent site which it can redirect the families onto if it is to evict the families from council-owned land – but it has failed to create one for years.

Councillors have also spurned chances to assign a range of temporary sites, which would have been occupied for up to eight weeks each.

A district council spokesperson said that eviction procedures had been started and that an urgent decision has already been made to assign Clifton Road Coach and Car Park in Ashbourne and Matlock Railway Station Car Park as temporary tolerated sites.

This is with the caveat that the sites can only be used by “Traveller families with a local connection to the Dales”.

The district council is to make a formal decision on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

All of this comes a month after the council had been looking to temporarily place one homeless Traveller family on the burial ground site, for up to eight weeks, while a family member recovered from a medical operation, this followed an approach from the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group.

This plan was scrapped because the procedure was cancelled.

Nesta Jarville, who also lives near the site, said that a resident had blocked Derby Road and that last night there was “hell of a lot of driving at speed” to and from the site.

“I did not have a problem with the idea of a temporary, controlled site, but I do have an issue with them breaking in,” she said.

“I understand they want a change of scenery because of all the abuse they get.

“Derbyshire and Staffordshire need to get together and find a few areas they can go.”

A resident who did not wish to be named, said: “I think it is unfortunate that it is consecrated ground. There has been some talk about Travellers moving onto the site for about a week now, so maybe more could have been done to prevent access.

“They need a site and we need to find a site, it is not an easy situation for anyone, they don’t seem to be welcome anywhere.

“In the spirit of cooperation they do have to live somewhere”

A second resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “It should be illegal, I should think. They were in Sudbury before.

“It is disgraceful. I would have more sympathy if they cleaned up after themselves when they left.”

An elderly couple, who did not wish to be named, told the LDRS that they were not happy about the incident, purely because the families had broken into the site.

A further resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “They have arrived late on Saturday or early Sunday and they are on what we know is consecrated ground.

“I’m told that DDDC has advised that they can go down to a site in Ashbourne. There were two substantial concrete blocks and a padlock on the gate, so I’m not sure how they got in.

Police were called and they monitored things and there was a bit of argy-bargy between the Travellers and the villagers.”

The resident, who has lived in the village for more than 20 years, said: “What has upset most people is that it is a burial ground and most of us will be buried there at some point and they don’t like the thought of being buried in ground that someone has done their business on.

“I have never known the village to get so furious, they have never been so upset or furious.”

Cllr Jacqueline Allison, who represents the area on the district council and lives close to the site, said: “There was a lot of community tension on Sunday morning when people realised the Traveller families had moved on.

“The police had arrived due to altercations from Travellers and residents.

“A temporary site has been found for them and the eviction process has started and we are hoping to persuade them to move.

“There are a lot of nasty things being said about them, but they are not a nasty family, we know the family well as a council and I am glad the council has come to a cross-party agreement on two temporary sites.”

A Derbyshire police spokesperson said: “We were called to reports that a number of a Travellers had arrived at a field off Hall Drive, Doveridge, at around 8.20am on Sunday, June 26.

“Officers have attended the site as per standard procedure, to speak with the group and also following concerns from the local community.

“They continue to monitor the situation and are liaising with DDDC and other relevant local authorities on the matter.”

A district council spokesperson said: “We have started eviction proceedings at the Doveridge site. The Traveller family, which are known to us and have a local connection to the Derbyshire Dales, are being directed to a newly designated site in the council’s ownership.

“An urgent decision on behalf of Derbyshire Dales District Council has been taken to designate sites in Ashbourne and Matlock for temporary occupation by Traveller families with a local connection to the Dales.

“The decision taken using delegated powers is to accommodate a family member’s urgent medical requirements. The decision has been taken after consultation with the chairman, leader and deputy leader of the council, local ward members and members of all political groups represented on the council.

“It follows an approach by Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group seeking the district council’s assistance and means land owned by the Council at Clifton Road Coach and Car Park in Ashbourne and Matlock Railway Station Car Park could potentially become temporary stopping places for Gypsy and Traveller families with a known connection to the Derbyshire Dales.

“All we can do is attempt to manage this situation. The immediate needs of this family member include having access to a site with running water due to the family member’s medical situation.

“It is well known that the District Council has sought to establish permanent and temporary Traveller sites in the district for decades and has not yet allocated a site for this purpose.

“In July 2021, the district council voted against adopting a number of proposed locations as negotiated stopping places and did not delegate authority to officers to control the location of homeless families.

“In the absence of this, officers do not have a formal position of the council to rely upon to manage any issues that may arise, such as this one.

“Given the personal circumstances of the family concerned and pressing timescales, officers sought the views of members on acceptable options, the suitability of such sites and access to water supplies which would be needed for the family.

“A report will be submitted to a future council meeting to seek a resolution from Members in respect of both sites.

“The search for a suitable permanent site continues and we continue to welcome suggestions from local landowners.”

Sarah Dines, Derbyshire Dales MP, said: “Following reports from constituents that Travellers have moved onto the consecrated land at Doveridge Burial Ground, I have written to the district council to ask that they take immediate action.

“I have also written to the Police to ask that they look into reports of criminal damage as a matter of urgency. I will update constituents when I can.”