Council bid to ban travellers from Barking and Dagenham sites goes to the High Court
PUBLISHED: 15:19 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 28 March 2017
A ban on gypsies and travellers setting up camp on sites across the borough is due to be heard in the High Court tomorrow.
Barking and Dagenham Council is seeking an interim injunction from the Royal Courts of Justice against illegal encampments on sites across the borough in an effort to prevent damage and cuts costs.
If granted, the order will give the council the power to remove travellers from camps appearing in 140 places including parks, schools and commercial areas.
And the order would give police the power to arrest people who refuse to move.
As part of the drive, signs warning 64 named travellers with a history of setting up illegal camps in the borough have gone up outside the different locations.
Debby Kennett from non-profit organisation the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit described the move as “a draconian response” to the housing needs of gypsies and travellers.
Debby said: “This approach is extremely costly and criminalises families who have no option but to live on roadside encampments due to the failure of councils over decades to provide enough authorised pitches.”
She added that a 2008 study identified a need for 811 pitches across the capital to provide space for travellers, but to date only 10 have been provided.
As an alternative, Debby urged the council to consider adopting a “negotiated stopping” approach instead which would see the local authority reach an agreement with travellers and gypsies to remain on a piece of ground under certain conditions - such as not lighting fires or dumping waste - for a limited period without being evicted.
“This demonstrates a practical and humane alternative to continual evictions or banning travellers which is not a solution for the needs of children and families who simply have nowhere to live,” Debby said.
In its applciation the council submitted 1,700 pages of evidence saying 81 illegal encampments appeared between 2014 and 2016 and claiming the travellers caused “significant nuisance and community tension”, “flouted the law” and left behind human excrement.
A council spokesman said: “We want to put a stop to the damage caused by illegal encampments – damage that affects businesses, residents and schools and costs us hundreds of thousands of pounds to fix every year.”