Is this the cause of the Gypsy Traveller problem in Harlow?

Politics / Tue 30th Sep 2014 at 02:08pm

TWO MONTHS ago, YH was present at a press conference called by Essex Police, Harlow Council and the Essex County Traveller Unit (ECTU).

This reporter asked: “Why are the Gypsy Travellers here in the first place?”

The ECTU rep, Stephen Andrews replied: “I don’t know”

So we thought we would have a little explore.

One of the travellers who appears to have been a constant presence is Mr Patrick Donovan. It was Mr Donovon who was present at the old Passmores site and who also attended at the meeting at the Park Inn.

On both occasions, Mr Donovan made reference to being “thrown off his own land in Epping”

So, we had a trawl through the Epping Forest District Council website and found this and this

This case (and let us try and keep things as simple as possible) seems to indicate that land was bought well over a decade ago. The land was built on. The land was on the green belt and therefore, you needed to present a very special circumstance (VSC) as to why you should build on the green belt. If you don’t then you can get in real bother.

It went through the council meeting and all the way up to the High Court until November 2013.

This article from the Brentwood Gazette brings us up to November 2013.

The article highlights that over 70 families now had nowhere to go or rather they could not go to Stapleford Tawney.

Feelings ran high: One traveller said: “They stole our land, kicked us out of our home and stole our chickens. The treatment has been awful.”

Then, many would say, that, whether you are a large housing developer or a group of Gypsy-Travellers, you cannot go building on the Green Belt without that VSC. And don’t go messing with the High Court…..

So perhaps that would explain why we are where we are. Of course we could be wrong.

So….where are we know.

In some ways this is a perfect storm for a Gypsy Traveller problem. Let us take you back in history again.

Back in 2006, this reporter sat at meetings where the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy was being discussed. In short, the report said, there is a need for a number of gypsy pitches in Essex and here is where we think they should be. The public were not happy and made their feeling plain. They were told: “Be careful what you wish for…”

The EERA was dissolved soon after the 2010 General Election and so the problem was not addressed. There are more plans in the pipeline (and there is a General Election next year).

To be fair, Harlow Council have always done what they can. Essex County Council have lacked urgency. Essex Police seem to be acting as if there is some unwritten policy of non-harrassment. (and of course there isn’t is there lads?). But if you think Texas state line “What we have here is a failure to communicate” policing is suddenly going to happen then think again.

Don’t forget, if you end up charging Travellers, then they may well be No Fixed Abode (NFA) and that may mean considerable economic implications. Could be a tax disc, litter etc. The cost would be seen by the authorities as “economically prohibitive”.

The Harlow MP, Robert Halfon clearly seems to believe the police should fully enforce all the powers bestowed upon them. However, when a member of the public asked chief inspector Greg Wood why are travellers not being fined for parking on the pavement. The Ch.Insp replied: “Well that would be hard to do as a lot of people do it” That begs serious questions as to how fit for purpose Essex Police are and how many other offences, statutes and crimes, they take a similar attitude to?

The public are naturally angry. Yes, at times people are irrational, confused and downright rude but that is their call. People don’t necessarily understand spatial strategies, section 61s, the European Court of Human Rights. But all they see is Harlow residents missing two council tax payment and being sent letters, single mums dropping a cigarette butt on the Board Walk and being fined and a man fine for letting his dog poo on the pavement and want a level playing field.Birch Field 2

You know what, there is no short term solution to this one unless there is a friendly landowner happy to rent out a field for a winter. And as he has not come forward yet….

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