An injunction preventing illegal traveller incursions in Harlow could be discharged after one year.

The joint order between Essex County Council (ECC) and Harlow District Council would extend the injunction restraining unlawful encampments in the district of Harlow.

The original injunction was obtained in 2015 to deal with a specific local problem and was extended in June 2017 for three years. Harlow District Council has now asked ECC to support a revised application on different sites – namely enterprise zones, industrial estates, the entire cycle track network, Harlow Town Football Club, Harlow Common and Latton Common.

The order comes after a sustained period between October 2013 and March 2015, when over 110 different unauthorised encampments occurred within the Harlow district, with reported damage to public places, fly-tipping, human waste, antisocial behaviour and general disruption.

A further 16 unauthorised encampments occurred following the granting of an interim injunction in March 2015. All encampments occurred on both Harlow and ECC land in the district.

Most of these were linked to a “particular group of people”.

As a result of this problem ECC and Harlow Council jointly applied to the High Court. An interim injunction order was made in March 2015. The injunction is for public land only. This injunction protected 320 vulnerable sites that included parks, playgrounds, previously occupied sites, highway verges, cycle tracks and schools all from being used for future unauthorised encampments.

The injunction applied to a number of named individuals and well as ‘persons unknown’, meaning that it could be enforced against any person on public land. In addition, the named individuals were prevented from setting up an encampment on any land within the district of Harlow, unless authorised to do so.

ECC has now agreed to make an application to the High Court to be a party to the extension of a revised injunction for two years, subject to Harlow Council agreeing to indemnify ECC in full for its legal costs.

But unless there is a “compelling case” in 2022 and evidence of a problem of unauthorised encampments at that time, no further Harlow injunction would be supported by ECC.

ECC has also asked Harlow Council to instigate a review of the injunction in May 2021, with a view to deciding whether or not an application should be made to discharge the injunction after one year.

It also wants Harlow “to join the Essex County Traveller Unit immediately in order to improve the fair and consistent treatment of the Gypsy and Roma Traveller community across Essex”.

A statement as part of an ECC decision notice said: “The current application is therefore for a much more restricted area than the previous injunctions. This is partly because of a reduction in the number of unauthorised encampments but also because of the decision of the Court of Appeal in March 2020 where the court decided not to give Bromley LBC a similar injunction, albeit the facts in Bromley were very different to the situation in Harlow in 2020. Nonetheless the judgement makes it clear that the courts will expect to see evidence of a significant threat. Therefore the application now only seeks protection for sites considered to be vulnerable.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

For more breaking news, local headlines and features, ‘like’ our Facebook page.

We also have a Twitter account: @EppingFGuardian

Follow us to keep up-to-date with news in Epping Forest.