Councils win three-year extension to district-wide ban on unauthorised encampments

Harlow Borough Council and Essex County Council have secured a three-year extension to an injunction which bans Travellers from setting up unauthorised encampments across Harlow.

The injunction will now apply until midnight on 14 June 2020. It had been due to expire on 16 June 2017.

The councils said that they had, in seeking an extension, also applied to add five named persons to the injunction order and one piece of private land, previously not included.

The injunction bans 40 named persons from setting up unauthorised encampments on any land in Harlow. It also protects 322 vulnerable sites across Harlow including parks and playgrounds, business areas, highway verges, schools, cycle tracks, previously occupied sites and some private land from person’s unknown setting up unauthorised encampments.

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The two local authorities originally applied for an interim injunction in March 2015, after Harlow experienced 109 different unauthorised encampments for nearly 18 months.

In December 2015 a full injunction was granted by the High Court for 18 months.

The injunction was seen as a ground-breaking move at the time as an injunction excluding named persons from an entire district had never been applied for before.

Cllr Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “I am very pleased that our injunction can continue to be enforced for another three years. This injunction is about upholding the law, responding and listening to the concerns of residents and businesses, and protecting the town’s green open spaces and business areas. It is not – and never has been – about persecuting any particular group of people or their way of life.

“For nearly 18 months Harlow was affected by persistent unauthorised Traveller encampments. The everyday powers available to councils simply don’t work and you end up playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’. Almost overnight, the injunction worked and has made a huge difference in protecting land and preventing disruption to the lives of Harlow residents and businesses.

“Harlow is a tolerant place, but our settled communities quite rightly don’t want to see a repeat of persistent antisocial behaviour or see our lovely green open spaces damaged.”

Cllr Clempner added: “We have long called for changes to be made to the powers Government provides councils to deal swiftly and adequately with this issue. Unfortunately these powers have remained unchanged so we wanted to be proactive by applying for an extension ahead of the injunction ending. Council officers have been looking at this issue since the turn of the year and gathering evidence statements for the case. You can never be quite sure what the judge will decide but I’m glad the council’s decision to lead on and apply for an extension has paid off.

“It is up to every council in the UK to address the lack of authorised traveller pitches. In Harlow we continue to work to ensure we meet our planning obligations in future and that the existing permanent public traveller sites are well managed and help meet future demand for pitches. We will also continue to call for improvements to be made to the everyday powers available to councils so they can deal swiftly with unauthorised Traveller encampments.” 

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