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Council obtains temporary injunction to protect 158 sites in borough from illegal encampments

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council has secured a temporary High Court injunction to prevent illegal encampments on 158 sites.

The temporary injunction will remain in force for three months in advance of a full hearing for a permanent injunction in November 2019.

The order covers a range of sites in the borough including parks, playgrounds, open spaces, agricultural land and car parks.

The injunction forbids caravans, mobile homes, vans and lorries from coming onto the land and setting up camps or dumping waste on it.

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Reigate & Banstead said it took the decision to apply for the injunction following a recent surge in encampments and fly-tipping.

Between March and November 2018 the council dealt with 22 unauthorised encampments on council-owned land, compared to seven over the same period in 2017. It has dealt with seven encampments so far in 2019.

Details of the order are available on the council’s website at www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/encampments.

Cllr Natalie Bramhall, Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, said: “Over the last year, the borough has experienced an increase in encampments, with certain sites particularly affected, and the clean-up afterwards is often costly. This injunction will protect our parks and open spaces and enable our residents to enjoy their greenspaces and local facilities.”

Cllr Bramhall added: “We will be able to deal with encampments through the courts much more quickly when they arise, rather than the council and the police relying on their respective powers, which are not always as efficient at removing encampments as we and our communities would like. Based on the experience of other boroughs with this type of injunction, we hope that it will act as a deterrent to encampments happening in the first place.

“The council is also undertaking work to better protect its land from illegal encampments.”

Last month Southend-on-Sea Borough Council narrowly voted to follow its monitoring officer’s advice and rejected a call to pursue a borough wide injunction against illegal encampments.

John Williams’ report said that since the subject last arose in August 2017 there had been 12 unauthorised encampments on council land and “travellers have been moved on quickly, in some cases before possession proceedings have even been commenced”.

He added that "in the light of all the current information", he did not consider that the council had the evidence to commence legal proceedings for a borough-wide injunction, or stood any reasonable chance of convincing the court that such an injunction should be granted.

Council leader Ian Gilbert said Southend had long taken “a robust approach to dealing with illegal encampments” but the injunction would be “disproportionate to the scale of the problem we face, and is unlikely to be granted by a court”.

In May this year a High Court judge refused an application by Bromley Council to extend an interim injunction prohibiting camping on 171 open spaces and car parks in the borough.

Instead the judge granted Bromley a more limited injunction preventing people from fly-tipping, depositing substantial amounts of waste, or entering parks and car parks in vehicles for the purposes of waste disposal or fly-tipping.

Steven Woolf, of Hardwicke Chambers, who has secured a number of such injunctions, subsequently argued that boroughs with properly prepared ‘green space’ preventative injunctions against occupation of public land had little to fear from the High Court ruling in the Bromley case.

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