Harlow Council, along with Essex County Council, have applied to the Courts to have a permanent injunction on illegal gypsy encampments to protect 454 parcels of land. Mrs Justice Patterson has recently granted a temporary injunction, in a decision which is the first of its kind, with a fuller hearing later this year.
It is believed to be the first blanket ban injunction on all Local Authority owned land in a particular town ever to be granted in the UK. The local MP for Harlow, Mr Robert Halpern, described it as a “major step forward in ridding our town of this blight once and for all”.
The council’s pursuit of the injunction followed 109 separate occasions of needing to move travellers on from sites around the town since October 2013, and required almost a full year of legal preparation.
Of wider consequence, the High Court ruling could potentially set a precedent which other councils might follow. That would mean no prolonged time lag and no court case every time gypsies or travellers descend on a piece of public land and create an encampment. Instead, the gypsies would be in ‘contempt of court’ and would be justifiably removed immediately.
A spokesman for the gypsy counsel however, stated that the granting of the blanket injunction was “like a police state”.
There is a due process of law which has to be followed if there is an illegal encampment on public land and due to the many times that Harlow has suffered from this, this blanket injunction will make it considerably easier for authorities to move in and evict the campers and caravans from publicly owned land.
Traditionally, when authorities moved into evict the gypsies, campers, caravans and travellers from one location, they would simply move a short distance down the road and park up on a new area of publicly owned land and stay anywhere from a few days to a number of weeks.
By establishing this blanket ban, this will no doubt save the local authorities and the tax payers a considerable amount of money.
Whilst one has sympathies with the travellers’ desire to move around, at the end of the day if they do not own the land they should have no rights to overrule a public sector or private sector ownership right of property and nor should they flout planning and other laws that the rest of the communities actually abide by.
There will be a lot of councils waiting and watching for later in the year when the fuller hearing takes place. If this does set a precedent, then this will substantially reduce the waste of tax payers’ money spent every year to remove traveller’s sites across the nation.
LCB / SRJ www.PropertySurveying.co.uk 02/04/15