A developer literally had to dig deep in a bid to stop more travellers setting up camp on an upmarket new housing estate – by creating a moat around them.
Some residents had already moved in to their luxury new homes at the Rydons, a prestigious development which backs on to a golf and country club.
But they were dismayed when around 30 gypsies in nine caravans turned up at the site in Exeter, Devon, on Wednesday.
Residents complained to police that they were being kept up at night by loud music and the the sound of barking dogs.
Now the developer has taken drastic measures to try and stop more of them from moving in – by digging a trench around the camp.
Persimmon Homes brought in heavy-duty digging equipment to build the 18-inch moat so caravans are unable to access the site.
But the gypsies are refusing to move and say they will instruct their children to fill in the trench – using spades.
Simon Perks, managing director for Persimmon Homes, said the moat was a last resort after instructing bailiffs to serve an eviction notice.
He said: ”To further encourage them to leave, we have dug a trench around the site that has an access point.
”The trench will in no way endanger them, but it will act as a deterrent to them staying on the land, and prevent them from moving to another part of the site.
”We are liaising with both the travellers and the police to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible.”
Police attended the scene on Thursday and the company gave the travellers until noon on Thursday to move, or they would dig the trench.
Workers then completed the moat despite the efforts of the travellers, who moved their vehicles to create a barrier in a bid to stop them.
Residents at the development supported the decision to dig the trench, but said action should have been taken sooner.
Lee Tonkin (corr) , a 24-year-old IT technician, said the grassy space could have been barricaded earlier to stop them moving in.
He said: ”I think Persimmon needs to act quickly to clear them. They are right by the main entrance to the estate, and it is a big camp.”
Another resident, who did not want to be named, added: ”Having an illegal travellers’ site next to your new home doesn’t exactly make you feel safe.
”It was always going to happen, and I think the developer should have thought of it before this happened.”
The travellers, who are camped just yards from a show home and sales office, say they are ”on holiday” and have a right to be there.
One, Frank Loveridge (corr) , said they had been forced off another site and were planning to stay for a week.
He said: ”All we want is a bit of space. This is supposed to be a free country and we are not doing anyone any harm. This is just like any other campsite.”
Another added: ”The trench won’t be a problem. Our children would be able to fill it in with spades.”
A police spokesman said two officers were sent to the scene because of the risk of a possible breach of the peace.
He added that the encampment was a civil crime of trespass and it not generally a police matter.