Richmond Council have begun legal proceedings to remove a travellers' site in Ham.

On Tuesday (June 2), the council put out a statement saying they had issued an injunction to remove a group of travellers that set up on Riverside Drive in Ham.

The council previously said they were not in a position to take any action regarding the site, citing recent government advice.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the government urged councils across England to permit travellers to stay on land under their jurisdiction so that they could have fast access to healthcare services when necessary.

However, Richmond Council's statement on Tuesday suggested it had "considered carefully" its interpretation of the government guidelines and that they were now seeking to remove the site.

"The pandemic has however brought along new factors that councils must consider in decision-making when contemplating enforcement action against camps.

"This includes new Government guidance relating to the particular vulnerability of gypsies and travellers families/groups to COVID-19 which the Council has considered carefully as well has having due regard to the Council’s Public Sector Equality Duty," a spokesperson said.

"The Council’s legal team, environmental services and public health colleagues have reviewed the guidance and concluded that - due to the transient nature of the travellers, the current low levels of local infection, the close proximity of the occupied site to nearby residents, and the amount of unsanitary waste that was previously left behind - it is proportionate and in the best health interests of all concerned to commence enforcement action.

"The Council has already commenced the necessary legal proceedings. However, the full ability to enforce may take a few days longer.

"In the meantime, the Council has conducted further welfare checks and will provide the travellers with Public Health guidance on staying safe during the pandemic," they added.

Councillor Julia Neden-Watts, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee at Richmond Council, offered her thoughts along with the announcement of the injunction.

“Government guidance is clear that we have to take into account the wellbeing of everybody during the pandemic and that includes the travellers," she said.

"The required welfare checks have been carried out, and we have gone on to consider the full range of issues including the concerns raised by nearby residents.

"We have reached the conclusion that the travellers must move on. Accordingly, we have commenced legal proceedings and expect them to take effect over the next few days," Neden-Watts added.