INJUNCTION: Travellers have been banned from certain industrial estates and parks
A COUNCIL once blighted by illegal traveller encampments says a High Court injunction to ban caravans from parts of its town is working after families were moved on within 24 hours.
Basildon Council said it was able to quickly move on two unauthorised traveller encampments, which were set up on private land, because of the injunction it obtained in November.
The authority has faced several unauthorised camps springing up, both on land owned by the travellers and other people's.
In the case of camps on land owned by others, it has often taken a week, or sometimes longer, to move the families on.
However, the injunction, which covers specified industrial areas and parks, means that if anyone breaches it they could be jailed for contempt of court.
A council spokesperson said: "We received reports of an incursion in the Harvey Road car park.
"The occupiers of two caravans present at the site were informed by officers from the council that they were in breach of an injunction and warned to vacate or face committal proceedings.
SPRAWLING: Hovefields, Wickford, has faced unauthorised developments for years
"The travellers moved on from the car park, stopping briefly at the corner of Chester Hall Lane and Miles Gray Road before moving on again. It is not currently known where they have gone."
In a separate case, a group of travellers, who attempted to pitch up in the car park of the Basildon Sporting Village, quickly moved on after being reminded of the injunction by police.
Councillor Gavin Callaghan, Basildon Council’s Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, said: “We are committed to doing everything within our power to tackle unauthorised encampments which blight our borough and I’m delighted that on two separate occasions this week we have proved the value of the High Court injunction that our officers worked so hard to obtain.
TOUGH STANCE: Councillor Gavin Callaghan claims the authority's action is working
“We recognise the negative effect these encampments can have on local residents, businesses and community groups.
"However, we always have to act proportionately and within the law, which is why we took the step to protect these particular areas which suffered so much from the impact of persistent encampments in the past.
"We are sending a clear message that we will not tolerate these breaches.”
The council has also had successes in its battle against the unauthorised expansion of the Hovefields Avenue traveller site off the A127 at Wickford.
Plots of land owned by traveller families have been systematically developed without planning permission, before a lengthy appeals process.
WATCH: Video on the campaign to save the Dale Farm traveller site
In one case, traveller William Casey built a caravan park for nine mobile homes on land at Jessomine, which he bought after the Gemini Kennels business there closed.
The council refused to reach a decision over a retrospective planning application he made on grounds unauthorised development had already taken place.
It, instead, served a planning enforcement notice requiring that the land be returned to its permitted use in March 2017.
Mr Casey took the case to the High Court, which has now twice ruled in favour of the council.
At the latest hearing this month, his Honour Deputy Judge John Howell QC repeated the earlier view of Robin Purchas QC, which was made on 29 November 2017, that the council had acted lawfully.
FRICTION: People who spoke against illegal Hovefields pitches say homes were attacked
Separately, the council has welcomed the ruling of a High Court judge to refuse an application to judicially review the decision of the Planning Inspectorate in relation to caravan pitches on land at nearby Silva Lodge Kennels.
In November 2017 a planning inspector decided that five pitches that had been established on the land should be removed but permanent permission was granted for one to remain.
The decision followed a four day inquiry which concluded on Friday 8 September 2017 in relation to an appeal made by Thomas Anderson against enforcement notices served by Basildon Council in September 2016, after the green belt site was developed without planning permission.
EXPANDING: Cranfield Park Avenue, North Benfleet, is another growing site
A High Court injunction was also obtained at the time, which was subsequently breached, resulting in fines and a custodial sentence.
Mr Anderson sought permission for a judicial review of the inspector’s decision to reject planning permission for the five pitches but this was refused at the High Court by His Honour Deputy Judge John Howell QC.
Mr Callaghan added: "I welcome the latest decision to uphold the planning inspector’s decision which predominantly reinforced the objective of protecting our green belt land against unlawful development.
"These decisions prove that we are using the right tactics to tackle unauthorised developments across the borough.
"We will continue to take a robust approach, using all available powers to address flagrant breaches of planning law."