Richmond Council announced today (May 19) it would not seek to move on the travellers' site in Ham with police in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The council said that it was listening to residents who were "concerned" about the site currently in place on Riverside Drive in Ham.

However, in light of government measures during the pandemic, it no longer had the typical authority to work with the police in seeking to move on people currently living there.

The government has asked local authorities across the country to allow travellers communities to stay on council-owned land in order to help slow the spread of the virus and ensure greater access to healthcare for everyone.

"Under the new Government Covid-19 guidance, councils are being asked to allow traveller sites to stay on council-owned land, to enable them to access vital healthcare during lockdown - provided that they adhere to the law," a spokesperson for Richmond Council said Tuesday.

Your Local Guardian: Councils are being asked to allow travellers to stay on council land during the coronavirus pandemicCouncils are being asked to allow travellers to stay on council land during the coronavirus pandemic

They added further details of how those living at the site would still be held to certain conditions during the pandemic:

"Under Government rules, and during the lockdown, unauthorised traveller camps will be allowed provided they do not burn rubbish, drive on footpaths or go to the toilet in the open.

"They must also not damage the site and abuse, intimidate or harass anyone or participate in any form of antisocial behaviour," Richmond Council said.

Cllr Martin Elengorn, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, added his own thoughts to the council statement.

He pointed out that while residents had similar concerns to councillors, the travellers' site included vulnerable people who might need access to medical services during the pandemic:

“We know that residents do not like seeing unauthorised camps in our parks and open spaces, particularly when many of us are using these spaces a lot more since the lock down. Neither do we. But our hands are tied.

“Under the new national rules we cannot use our usual powers to evict travelling families from unauthorised encampments and the Government has asked councils to allow those families to stay while the crisis continues.

"With some vulnerable people among their number, this will allow them to access healthcare and reduce the potential spread of the virus.

“Our Park Guard security team and the Police are currently working with the travellers to ensure that they do not behave illegally whilst staying in the borough. Residents who are concerned about illegal behaviour are able to make reports to the police by calling 111.”