Travellers - a case for "green space" preventative injunctions?
The 1990 Town and Country Planning Act is where this starts - section 187B(1) and the judgment in South Bucks DC v Porter.
But before we dive into the law, let's look at what has been happening in this area in the last few weeks, starting with the arrival in April of travellers from the north-west of England on land alongside the A505 at Thriplow Heath. The district council applied for a common law power to remove them under section 77 of the 1994 Police Act. The travellers moved after a ten hour eviction process, and then after bailiffs moved them from the Hexcel site near Duxford they moved back to Thriplow a few days later. The district council applied for a second summons and the group moved off the land back towards Duxford, and then to the Genome Centre beyond Duxford, where the security staff blocked the car park to prevent access and a further stand off ensued. The travellers then moved to Sawston, to the site where the football stadium is being built. The owner of the land at Thriplow Heath have until 16 June to remove the materials fly tipped there or face prosecution. This is what the entrance to the field looked like this week.
I'm very pleased with the support that I have had from villages who want to write to the police chief constable about what has happened - but this is a matter for all the relevant authorities - district, county and police.
The costs to the council and local businesses runs into thousands, paying for bailiffs and clearing up - and let's be clear that clearing up isn't just a litter pick. The travellers themselves presumably have a pretty hand to mouth existence trying to find sites. The people for whom I am elected to represent their views report to me intimidation, worry and fear from what has been happening to their lives.
We have to take the initiative, and be pro-active, and so I am calling on Cambridgeshire local councils, the police and our MPs to look at what other councils - mainly around London, such as Enfield, and Basingstoke - have been doing by way of seeking a "preventative injunction" which prevents 'persons unknown’ from accessing any green spaces, most commonly parks and sports fields, to make an encampment. .
I know the govt is running a consultation on all this, but to be honest, how long will that take before the law is changed?
Now, you cannot possibly name every green space in an area, but you could name all the village greens and sports sites, to prevent what happened at Stapleford last summer - where the parish council ploughed a line round the cricket pitch and at Cambourne where the sports pitches were moved onto. The point is that making any incursion on any of the green spaces named in the injunction would thereby be a contempt of court, which is a criminal matter enforceable by the police. Assuming the police support the injunction - it follows they would have to be willing to enforce it.
It would take some very good evidence put up by the district planning authority, supported by the police and the county council, to be able to convince a judge that this was needed, but it seems other councils are able to do it. It seems to me this is a case of either give it a go or wait for a long hot summer of bailiffs chasing travellers from one green space to the next, and then the clearing up process, to the frustration of residents. I assume that the courts would thoroughly test the impact on the Human Rights of the travellers - their health and any hardship this would bring - in considering the application.