We been successful in securing new powers to take action over unauthorised traveller encampments after the High Court of Justice granted an injunction to protect council-owned sites.
The injunction, granted last Thursday (1 November), will last for three months in the first instance and bans any encampment on 95 sites within Hertsmere, including public parks, car parks and green spaces, unless planning permission has been obtained from the council or granted by a Planning Inspector.
As well as covering residential uses, the injunction also bans the disposal of waste on all 95 sites.
Objections can be raised during this three-month period and once this ends, we will apply to have the injunction extended for five years.
Since May 2018, there have been at least 16 unauthorised encampments on our land, many with large groups of between 50-75 people and 30-50 vehicles, mobile homes and caravans, as well as a number of dogs.
The court heard that human and animal excrement had been found following the encampments, along with domestic and industrial waste that had been dumped on the land, including building materials, glass and asbestos.
Cllr Seamus Quilty, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport, said: “I am very pleased with the outcome of the hearing and would like to congratulate all our staff who contributed to making this application a success.
“The traveller encampments have presented us, our partners and local communities with significant challenges, which we have been working hard to tackle.
“In response, we have taken a number of measures to better protect our parks and, with each encampment, have followed the correct legal procedures. This has entailed issuing a Notice of Direction for the travellers to leave before pursuing a Removal Order through the courts if they have not already left.
“However, this process can take time, which can cause frustration for the public, many of whom would like to see the situation resolved more quickly.
“Every encampment has also brought a significant workload for our officers who have had to conduct welfare assessments, serve notices, attend court hearings, conduct evictions and arrange for the clean-up of sites, all at significant financial cost to local taxpayers.
“The injunction will enable us to respond more effectively and prevent these encampments in the first place because anyone who deliberately breaches the injunction will face potential arrest, committal to prison and an unlimited fine.”
The injunction application received support from Hertfordshire Constabulary.
Chief Inspector Steve O’Keeffe, of Hertfordshire Constabulary, said: “I fully supported Hertsmere Borough Council in seeking alternative legal measures within civil law to protect the rights and privileges of local residents and businesses in the area.”
Posted on Friday 2nd November 2018