Public Sector Property

17.08.18

High Court allows London council to fine and imprison illegal campers

A council has successfully obtained a High Court injunction allowing it to use greater powers – from fines and asset seizure to imprisonment and – against illegal travellers in the region.

The borough-wide injunction will allow Bromley to stop people form occupying council-owned land, although the interim tool is only effective for three months.

Any illegal traveller incursions breaching the order could be held in contempt of court as a result.

In a statement, the London council said it will not accept illegal encampments in its green spaces, parks and other managed areas. It also hopes to apply for a longer-term injunction “in due course.”

Kate Lymer, executive councillor for public protection and enforcement at the London Borough of Bromley, said: “This welcome High Court injunction underlines our determination to use all legal measures at our disposal, which will hopefully speed up some of the frustrating delays we have experienced.

“We have been preparing the legal documentation for a while now which strengthens the legal framework on a local level when tackling traveller incursions.”

Caravans have been seen parked at several different council-owned sites over the past few days. Cllr Lymer thanked residents and the Friends of Parks groups for helping with clearing up these areas following the incursions.

Despite the new court order, Bromley MP Bob Neill has written to communities secretary James Brokenshire calling for more powers to crack down on the problem, which is “affecting local residents and diverting valuable resources away from both the police and council.”

According to the MP, a number of local businesses have refused to open this week out of fears that they may experience problems due to the illegal campers.

“As I made clear to the recent consultation on unauthorised encampments, the existing powers available to local authorities can often appear far more extensive and potent than they prove to be in reality,” Neill argued. “Robust deterrent is needed through changes to legislation.”

National charity Friends Family and Travellers, however, disagreed, arguing it was “deeply saddened” by the High Court’s decision. It claimed that there is a shortage of traveller sites in England, with 16% of caravans having to settle on unauthorised land as a result.

Top image: Whitehall Recreation Ground c. Stacey Harris

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