Leeds City Council has today (8 January) secured an injunction against a proposed homeless encampment which it claimed would create a “tent city” in a car park.
Leeds County Court received an undertaking from David Hedley, founder of the organisation behind the planned encampment (Leeds Homeless Support Group), that he would not seek to move forward with the proposal. The undertaking will be in place until 31 January 2022.
The injunction prevents the organisation of unauthorised encampments on land owned by Leeds City Council or the highway from 8 January 2020 onwards.
Writing before the hearing in an open letter to his MP, Mr Hedley said that the event sought to offer food, clothing, tents and somewhere “safe to stay” until they gained accommodation through the council.
Leeds said it sought the injunction after an encampment last year organised by the group posed “a serious public nuisance” and involved “an unlawful trespass”. The council claimed that:
- “People used controlled drugs. Used needles and other drug paraphernalia were discarded on the site
- People resident on the site were found intoxicated by alcohol and other substances and unable to care for themselves
- People urinated and defecated in open areas visible to the general public
- Rubbish and various items of waste were deposited on the site
- Fighting broke out amongst people resident on the site, and residents on the site were also subject to violent attack from others
- Further, residence on the encampment was a danger to those living there because: there was a lack of sanitation and fresh water facilities; food was prepared without adequate safeguards against contamination; there was a serious risk of infection from discarded used needles and other drug paraphernalia.”
In a statement on today's hearing, the council said: “Leeds City Council brought this action as this type of encampment would it was felt from experience of last year, have a negative and detrimental impact especially on vulnerable people, of which through collaboration with a wide-range of partners, the council is working extremely hard to provide meaningful support to. Currently the council is working through a range of initiatives such as the designated Street Support Team initiative, Housing First policy, Leeds Homeless Charter and Big Change Leeds campaign to provide the support that is needed. This type of illegal encampment would the council believes hinder this work, and potentially mean that access to this help is restricted.
“This area of business is a priority for the council and the authority is continuing its efforts to forge stronger links with grassroots organisations and other volunteering organisations through the Homeless Charter which is making a positive impact on increasing the council’s accessibility and engagement with some of the most vulnerable members of our community. The council is committed to this and will continue to seek new and innovative ways to help those who are in need.
“Anyone working independently potentially runs the risk of undermining progress and, in some cases, puts people’s ongoing rehabilitation at risk. This is why the council is taking this action to prevent unauthorised encampments.”