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Harlow Council call for government to review powers over unlawful traveller camps

Politics / Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 01:46pm

HARLOW Council is calling for the Government to review the powers available for Councils to deal with persistent unlawful traveller encampments.

Since October 2013 there have been 68 different unlawful traveller encampments in Harlow*. Today there are five encampments in Harlow totalling 35 caravans.
The main group of travellers have been in Harlow for the last year moving from site to site within the town on mostly public open space– grass verges, roundabouts, cycle tracks and playing fields. This group were moved off private land in Epping for breaching planning law and have been in Harlow ever since.

The Council’s legal bill for dealing with moving on unlawful encampments is currently more than £20,000 plus clean-up costs.

The Council has written to the Government about the powers available to address this problem but believes that there is also a bigger issue which needs to be addressed across the country. This is the provision of more authorised traveller pitches and transit sites in the country. The provision of such sites, however, needs to be considered in tandem with the powers available to deal with unauthorised and unlawful encampments.

In Harlow there are two long established authorised public traveller sites with 44 pitches run by Essex County Council at Fernhill and Flex Meadow. Both of these communities are part of Harlow. In some other areas in the country and within Essex there is no public traveller site provision.

Councillor Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “Harlow residents are very angry about this situation and we share their frustrations. A third of land in Harlow is public open space. We are doing everything we legally can to move encampments on to protect our green spaces and respond to concerns about the impact unauthorised encampments have on the whole community. However this is costing us, Essex County Council and the Police both time and taxpayers’ money.

“We are taking external legal advice to find a long-term solution to deal with the issue affecting Harlow but there are measures the Government can take to help. The Council is calling on the Government to review the powers available to Councils to deal with unlawful/unauthorised encampments and that pressure is put on other areas to provide authorised traveller sites.”

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