Over the last few months, more and more councils across England have been obtaining High Court injunction orders against unauthorised encampments, writes Ilinca Diaconescu, LGT’s Policy Officer.
These apply to various pieces of land, particularly parks, commons and other open spaces but also to industrial land. In some cases, the injunction specifically prohibits depositing waste on the site. The injunction orders are usually against “persons unknown” and anyone found to occupy the land may be imprisoned, fined or have their property seized.
A number of local authorities have been granted injunctions of different kinds. For example, Barking and Dagenham have an unlimited time order, Enfield have an order until October 2020 and Waltham Forest until January 2021. Redbridge, Croydon, Sutton and Bromley all have interim injunctions that have been granted this summer and are pursuing permanent orders in the coming months. A petition has been launched by an Ealing councillor asking the council to apply for a borough-wide injunction and drumming up opposition to roadside encampments.
LGT believes that borough-wide injunction orders do not offer a solution. Because of the lack of caravan site provision for Gypsies and Travellers, the injunctions simply push them to camp on the roadside in other areas. Across London, just 10 new pitches have been built on existing sites out of over 800 identified as needed in a study commissioned by the Greater London Authority in 2008.
LGT is urging local authorities to support the alternative approach of negotiated stopping which has been proved to reduce the costs to councils and improve the lives of Traveller families. It is a more humane response that many local residents would be willing to support.
We have written to the London boroughs which are currently pursuing permanent injunctions, asking to discuss the potential for negotiated stopping. This model has been documented by Leeds GATE and Rural Media through an excellent online resource.
The Travellers Advice Team at the Community Law Partnership believe that injunction orders are highly challengeable and are keen to hear from Gypsies and Travellers who are affected. You can contact them on 0121 685 8677, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.