Cranbrook’s minister speaks about the ‘difficult’ moments in 2017 when gypsies arrived in the town

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 December 2017

Flashback: Travellers at Cranbrook Station in March 2017. Ref mhc 14 17TI 0442. Picture: Terry Ife

Flashback: Travellers at Cranbrook Station in March 2017. Ref mhc 14 17TI 0442. Picture: Terry Ife

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The unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments at Cranbrook near Exeter in 2017 were one of the most difficult moments of the year, says the town’s church minister.

The Reverend Lythan Nevard believes the visitors left the town at ‘about the right time’, saying that if the encampments had gone on for much longer they could have become ‘divisive’ and might have ‘broken the town’s spirit’.

But although the encampments produced ‘negative experiences’ for the town’s residents, the church minister is hopeful that it won’t affect future relations with those who come to live in Cranbrook’s proposed gypsy and traveller sites.

“It was difficult,” said the Reverend Nevard, the minister for Cranbrook’s Cornerstone Church, as she recalled the lengthy encampments at Cranbrook railway station in March and April, followed by a shorter encampment in June near the Education Campus, in Tillhouse Road.

“I think they left at just about the right time,” she said. “I’m pleased to say that it never became something that broke the town’s spirit or became very divisive, which it could have done.

“I know there are people who felt that we could have done more as a town, and others who would have liked to have been allowed to do other things, but it didn’t happen and there was a peaceful end.

“The third group of people – who went near the Education Campus – were polite and friendly. If all the travellers could treat the place that they’re staying in with a little bit of care, that would have been helpful.

“At the same time, not everybody who is a traveller is scary or wanting everything. Sometimes we can have a view of people and we automatically expect that they are going to be tricky.

“They are not always and it’s disappointing that the people who were here the longest, didn’t make co-existence easy.

“Because we will be having fixed sites somewhere around Cranbrook, what I would hate is that the negative experiences that we have had with one group of people who choose to live in a certain way would mean that people won’t be welcoming to those who come to live permanently amongst us.”

There’s an in-depth interview with the Reverend Lythan Nevard in the December issue of the Herald, available in Cranbrook from Friday, December 8.

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