The Leader of Harlow Council has reacted to Essex County Council’s motion on unauthorised encampments debated at today’s (10 October 2017) Full Council meeting.
Councillor Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “While I welcome Essex County Council’s move to get all Councils and the Police working together, there are bigger issues; getting the balance right between site provision and enforcement, and over the everyday powers available to Councils, which still needs addressing.
“The problem all Councils have is that the current powers available to them to deal with unauthorised traveller encampments are weak and simply don’t work. We have long called for changes to be made to the powers Government provides Councils to deal swiftly and adequately with this issue. Unfortunately these powers have remained unchanged so we led on applying to extend our ground-breaking injunction in June this year. The injunction, which now runs until June 2020, has been in place since March 2015. Almost overnight it helped to deal with persistent unauthorised traveller encampments Harlow was experiencing. The injunction is a deterrent that quickly resolves any issues on the land it covers and usually within 24 hours.
“The injunction is about upholding the law, responding and listening to the concerns of residents and businesses, and protecting the town’s green open spaces and business areas. It is not – and never has been – about persecuting any particular group of people or their way of life.
“Essex Councils also need to actively explore traveller site provision, not just enforcement. There are currently no transit sites in Essex where travellers can go to and this is a serious discussion that all Essex Councils need to have. It is also up to every Council in the UK to address the lack of authorised traveller pitches. In Harlow we continue to work to ensure we meet our planning obligations in future and work with Essex County Council to ensure that the existing permanent public traveller sites are well managed and help meet future demand for pitches.