Protecting our land from encampments

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Canterbury City Council secured a temporary emergency injunction in the High Court yesterday (Wednesday 10 April) to try and prevent unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments on its land.

City councillors unanimously agreed to pursue the injunction at a Policy and Resources Committee meeting in July last year. They were told there had been 19 unauthorised encampments on the council’s land since the start of 2016 and that other local authorities faced with similar issues had successfully obtained an injunction.

Since then, council officers have been collecting the detailed evidence required to take such a step.

Canterbury’s injunction covers dozens of sites across the district, some of which have been vulnerable to unauthorised encampments on more than one occasion.

These include Kingsmead Field, the former Kingsmead coach park and Beverley Meadow in Canterbury, the Memorial Park and Neptune car park in Herne Bay, and the Faversham Road car park in Whitstable.

Anyone who illegally parks either a caravan or a mobile home on the land covered by the injunction is in breach of it and is required by law to leave immediately, or be in contempt of court. This offence carries numerous sanctions, including up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Head of Safer Neighbourhoods, Doug Rattray, said: “Unauthorised encampments can take a long time to resolve, requiring the attendance of our enforcement officers on a daily basis when they could be out investigating flytipping or tackling graffiti.

“Residents living near to some of the most affected sites also become concerned and expect us to remove these encampments as swiftly as possible, but this is not always as easy as it sounds.

“An injunction is the strongest deterrent available to us and sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate unauthorised encampments on our land. It brings with it some tough sanctions and we’re pleased to have secured it in time for the Easter period, when we have had problems in the past.”

The legal process for securing an injunction is in two parts, and the council will be returning to the High Court in June to seek to make the injunction permanent.