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Donnington traveller encampment moved on by Thames Valley Police

New police powers for traveller encampments were put to use over the weekend as a group which had broken into Donnington Recreation Ground was moved on.

On Saturday evening, the camp, made up of around 15 caravans, was given 90 minutes to leave by Thames Valley Police officers, who used a Section 60c notice introduced through the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

The group, which had broken a padlock to enter the site on Friday morning, chainsawed an exit through the fence in a hurry to leave in order to avoid having their vehicles seized under the new powers.

The encampment on Donnington Recreation Ground
The encampment on Donnington Recreation Ground

The land is owned by Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council.

Chairman Bill Graham said it was “shock” at the time but the process had been “reasonably peaceful”.

He said: “The invasion happened on Friday morning, and by Saturday afternoon the police had decided enough was enough.

“They had promised they’d go by Sunday night – whether they would’ve done or not we’ll never know.

The travellers left on Saturday evening
The travellers left on Saturday evening

“The police weren’t prepared to take that risk in the end and, having got the evidence they needed, they swooped on Saturday night.

“It’s certainly a relief they’ve gone and we can get back to normal.”

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: “I can confirm that a Section 60c notice was issued to those on the site to leave.

“This did not have to be enforced as those on the encampment left the site on Saturday evening.”

West Berkshire councillor for Speen, which covers Donnington, Steve Masters (Green) attended the recreation ground on Friday.

While making clear he condemned criminal acts, he said: “It is, in my opinion, important to ensure that already entrenched misconceptions of people whose lives are different to our own are not further reinforced by rumour, lies and out-and-out misrepresentation.

“The travellers from the outset assured me that it was their intention to depart sooner rather than later.

“As a fellow human, I was prepared to take them at their word.

“This does not constitute being soft or gullible – in fact it was to build an element of trust between both parties.

“Talking and getting to know each other is, in my experience, the best way to resolve any conflict and I feel like we did just that over the last few days.”

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) also attended the site.

She tweeted on Saturday: “Thank you [Thames Valley police and crime commissioner] Matthew Barber and [Newbury MP] Laura Farris for your help today.

“Thank you to the hardworking Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council team and TVP West Berkshire.

“The residents of Donnington will be relieved to have their recreation ground back.”

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