Police move to reassure residents over Pitchcott encampment

Insp Emma Garside
Insp Emma Garside

POLICE are reassuring people that a gathering being held this week at Riverside Farm, Pitchcott, is a prayer meeting and not an illegal traveller encampment, but they are urging people to report any suspicious activity.

Between 400 and 500 people and about 150 vehicles are on the site, with the landowner’s permission. Many have young families and the majority have travelled from other parts of the country for the Light And Life group’s annual holiday prayer event.

Toilet facilities and skips to collect rubbish are in place, and it will be the organisers’ responsibility to leave the site clean and tidy when the event ends on Friday.

Police will be assisting as vehicles exit the site on Friday to prevent traffic congestion.

The gathering does not require a licence given the nature of the activities taking place on the site, but Aylesbury Vale District Council and Bucks County Council are leading a prosecution against the landowner who is in breach of a High Court Injunction as a result of allowing his land to be used for a traveller encampment.

Neighbourhood Police Insp Emma Garside said: “It is important that the local community are aware of the facts surrounding this event. This is not an illegal traveller encampment. Those attending the location are present with the consent of the landowner.

“The Light And Life group hold annual prayer meetings such as this but have never visited Aylesbury Vale. Last year the meeting was in Iver,in south Bucks. There have not been any significant crime or community issues associated with this group when previous locations have been visited.

“Neither the police nor any of our partner agencies were aware that such a gathering was taking place. Speculation was made in days leading up to their arrival that the landowner may have been preparing to host an unlicensed music event but this was not the case. No rave has occurred.

“A noise abatement order has been issued and noise monitoring equipment installed in locations most directly affected by loud noise. To date, excess noise has not been reported.

“The police are in frequent contact with the organiser, who is engaging with officers and assisting police in their inquiries. Police are welcome on the site and I have visited myself today.

“Environmental health officers are leading on a prosecution against the landowner in relation to historically burning debris at the location and officers have visited the site today to investigate reports of contamination to a nearby brook.

“Police have received reports of anti-social behaviour, trespass and speeding/traffic offences.

“Neighbourhood officers are conducting frequent patrols in the vicinity of the site to offer reassurance and deter any offending. The organiser is working with us. Three arrests have been made so far for the theft of metal.

“I would urge people living in the vicinity of this location to report any suspicious activity to us. If you are worried and would like an officer to visit in person, this can be arranged.

“There is a significant amount of misinformation being circulated about this event but, that said, this is a time to be vigilant and ensure that practical steps are being taken to protect your property.

“The police will continue to work closely with our partner agencies to bring a successful prosecution against the landowner who has failed to consider the impact on the wider community when agreeing to host such an event.”

Contact the police on the non-emergency number 101, or via 999 in an emergency.