Barking and Dagenham Council wins interim travellers ban at the High Court
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:37 30 March 2017
The first ever injunction banning gypsies and travellers from setting up camp on sites across the borough was granted by the High Court.
Mrs Justice Jefford ruled in Barking and Dagenham Council’s favour yesterday after an application was made to stop illegal camps being set up on 140 sites - including green spaces, school grounds and business parks.
Travellers refusing to leave the sites - which includes Barking park - will be found in contempt of court and could face a prison term as a result.
In the interim injunction the council names 64 people and “persons unknown” barring them from setting up camp.
Council leader Councillor Darren Rodwell said illegal encampments had cost the borough around half a million pounds in clean-up costs, because of the large-scale fly tipping, waste and human excrement left on sites.
Cllr Rodwell said: “Illegal encampments have burdened our borough for years.
“They damage our parks and open spaces and we know from speaking to residents and businesses they are a huge problem for our communities.
“We are the first borough to go to these lengths to stop this activity because we want an end to the disruption illegal encampments cause,” he said.
According to the council, police and council officers have had to deal with 80 illegal camps in the last three years.
In response to the result, Debby Kennett from the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit said: “This is extremely disappointing.
“We have had some positive dialogue with the council and hoped for more a proactive response to the needs of gypsies and travellers.”
She added that although the charity understood the disruption caused to businesses, the council’s solution would not address the needs of families with nowhere to live.
She added: “The inclusion of “persons unknown” is extremely concerning, as it effectively bans any traveller family from moving into the borough.
“The council is required under the public sector equality duty to have “due regard” to the needs of Irish travellers and Romani gypsies who are recognised ethnic minorities and therefore protected under the law.”
“We would very much welcome further dialogue with the council to explore less costly and more humane alternatives,” she said.
The interim order will remain in force until the High Court sets a date to decide on a permanent ban.