CONCERN OVER DOGS AT PARK – Woman claims to have been bitten walking at Salt Mill
The travellers’ encampment at Salt Mill, where they relocated after being moved from Plympton. Photo Paul Williams

The travellers’ encampment at Salt Mill, where they relocated after being moved from Plympton. Photo Paul Williams

7th July 2021

By Suzanne Cleave

A Saltash resident said she was “terrified” after she was bitten by a dog belonging to travellers that had set up camp at Salt Mill.

Police recently used legislation to move the travellers from an illegal encampment in Plympton, but they relocated to Saltash. Cornwall Council has offered the group a place at a designated traveller site, but this has been refused.

Since their arrival, there have been a number of reports of people being bitten by dogs and anti-social behaviour in the town.

The woman, who does not wish to be named, told the Voice that she has walked in the park at Salt Mill every day for years.

Last Thursday, she went for a walk as normal, but this time things took a turn for the worse. She said: “I was just walking along the path and six dogs came up. One started following me then all his friends. The biggest dog sunk his teeth in my leg. I was absolutely terrified. They were all barking at me. I shouted but no-one came to help. “

“I didn’t know what to do, I just froze. I thought if I run, they’re all going to chase me. It was pretty terrifying, but I kept calm, I had to. “

“It was absolutely dreadful. The fact that they must have heard me shouting and they did nothing.”

The incident has put the woman off walking at Salt Mill until the travellers move. “I can’t go down there. I’d be afraid to while they’re still there. I’m not afraid of the people, it’s the dogs. It’s a shame because it’s one of the best facilities in Saltash, especially for responsible dog owners. day with their dogs, but I’ve never felt like that before.”

The incident was reported to the police, and the woman’s neighbour helped her clean the bite before it was assessed at hospital.

She has been left with a large bruise on her knee and a visible wound mark although she realises it could have been a lot worse.

“If that had been a toddler, it would have been face height. It’s too horrible to think about.”

Another resident, Shirley Ann Thompson, said people aren’t discriminatory about the travellers, but they are against some of their behaviour. “I know people talk about discrimination, but I think the majority of people here don’t discriminate. However, when people can be so disrespectful to others in the community, that’s what incites prejudicial views. There’s no consequences and there’s no deterrent. “

“It’s a community area that everybody’s council tax paid for. People have campaigned for grants. The community have fought hard for it and now they can’t even use it.”

Shirley said that people are quickly apprehended if they do something wrong, but it felt like the police take a different approach to the travellers. She added: “Devon and Cornwall Police don’t want to be accused of discrimination. If it was anybody else, they would be investigated and dealt with.”

The situation was discussed at the recent meeting of Saltash Town Council. Cornwall councillor for Saltash Essa Hilary Frank said as the travellers are protected as a minority ethnic group, the correct procedures and statutory obligations have to be followed by the council.

She noted that there are three traveller sites in Cornwall, including one at Pensilva, and also a transit site near Liskeard.

“What we have at Salt Mill is an unauthorised encampment. It constitutes trespassing.” A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “An officer from Cornwall Housing has visited the site to carry out statutory assessments.

“The council has offered the group space at its designated site at South Treviddo, but this was refused. “The council is now moving forward with the legal process to direct the group to leave the site.”