Bid to fight unlawful traveller encampments may just have got harder

MANY areas including Thurrock have cited Harlow as an example of how they should contest unlawful traveller encampments.

But if you read the article below, first published by our sister paper, YourHarlow, this may bee seen as much more difficult.

THE ERA of Harlow being a no-go zone for unlawful traveller encampments may be at an end after Harlow Council withdrew its application to renew a High Court injunction.

For nearly five years, an injunction has been in place preventing 35 named persons from setting up unauthorised encampments on any land in Harlow. It also protected 321 vulnerable sites including parks and playgrounds, previously occupied sites, highway verges, schools, cycle tracks and private land identified by Harlow Council and Essex County Council from persons unknown.

But now that may all be over.

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “On Friday (10 July 2020) following external legal advice and with great reluctance we withdrew the application to vary the injunction against unauthorised traveller encampments. We did this before the court made its decision. It was not a decision we took lightly, but there was a real risk that the application would be rejected, which would jeopardise any chance of a future injunction being granted. A major factor in our decision was the need to provide conclusive evidence of unauthorised traveller encampments being a current problem in the town and being an issue to the town in future.

“In some ways the effectiveness of our injunction, which has hugely reduced problems caused by unauthorised traveller encampments, has become a victim of its own success. The Harlow injunction has for five years led the way on managing unauthorised traveller encampments that cause nuisance and harm and that cannot be effectively dealt with through the existing powers available to councils.

“Given the changing legal situation with injunctions of this nature, we have always felt that our chances of getting an injunction extended might be limited, but the success of the 2015 and 2017 injunctions meant we had to try. The legal situation from June 2017 when we got the injunction extended for three years to now is very different.

“Our injunction has always been 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.

“We understand this news will disappoint and concern our residents and businesses. We are disappointed too. We don’t want to return to a situation the town faced between 2013 and 2015. Should those problems return, it will provide the evidence and justification for a fresh application and we will have no hesitation in returning swiftly to court.”

The existing injunction, granted on 14 June 2017, will expire at midnight on 14 July 2020.

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