Court date set for bid for injunction on unauthorised encampments in Harlow

Politics / Thu 12th Nov 2015 at 12:40pm

A DATE has been set for a High Court hearing on the town-wide injunction against both named and unknown persons setting up unauthorised encampments in Harlow.

A hearing has been listed for Wednesday, 16 December 2015 after Harlow Council and Essex County Council applied to make its ground-breaking interim injunction a final injunction.

The application and associated legal papers have been published on both Councils’ websites and next week these will be posted on sites the Councils want to protect from future unauthorised encampments.

The injunction application seeks the same protection as the interim injunction and would ban 35 named persons from setting up unauthorised encampments on any land in Harlow. It also seeks to protect 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.

The range and length of time the injunction is in force will be decided by the High Court. The interim injunction remains in force until a further decision is made by the High Court.

In March 2015 Harlow Council and Essex County Council joined forces to apply for a town-wide ban after the town was blighted with 109 different unauthorised encampments for nearly 18 months.

The sheer volume of concerns raised by residents and businesses over damage to public spaces, fly-tipping, human waste, anti-social behaviour and the daily disruption to people’s lives and livelihoods caused by persistent encampments will be reflected in the evidence presented to the Court.

Since the interim injunction has been in force four unauthorised encampments have set up on land covered by the injunction with each one moving out of Harlow within 24 hours. Breaching an injunction is a serious offence and could lead to a custodial sentence.

Councillor Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “I am pleased we are now at a point where we are ready to move ahead with seeking to apply for a final injunction. In responding to the concerns of our residents and local businesses we have put together the very best case we can.

“However, the final decision is very much in a High Court Judge’s hands. This injunction is about protecting the town’s vulnerable open spaces, upholding the law and responding and listening to the concerns of residents and businesses. It is not – and never has been – about persecuting any particular group of people or their way of life.

“Since having the interim injunction it has proved a clear deterrent in protecting land. Although the issue of persistent unauthorised encampments continues in other places, I am not sure any other area in the Country has ever seen the same level of unauthorised encampments we did for such a long period in a geographical area the size of Harlow. It is well-known that there is a lack of authorised pitches for travellers across the UK. It is up to every Council to address this issue and in Harlow we are working to ensure that the town meets its planning obligations in future and that the existing permanent sites are well managed and help meet future demand for pitches.”

Cllr Roger Hirst, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning and Environment, said: “Months of work with the local communities to highlight the concerns they have and to put these in front of the judge is finally set to come to fruition. Harlow’s open spaces are public assets and should be available for all to enjoy, and this injunction aims to enshrine that right.

“This is not about attacking Travellers, it is about resisting unlawful activity, standing up for the local community and ensuring Harlow remains a place people are proud to call home.”

The High Court’s decision will be announced on the Council’s website and social media channels and in the local press.

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