A Tory MP has accused the council of ‘waiving the white flag’ to travellers after its High Court injunction bid against unauthorised encampments failed.

Harlow Council, which has employed injunctions in the town since 2015, failed to secure a new injunction this month citing changes to the required legal threshold to acquire one.

Mr Halfon said: “The decision from Harlow’s Labour Council not to renew the injunction against unauthorised encampments is deeply worrying. Understandably, anxious residents are asking whether or not the council have held the white flag for unauthorised groups to trespass our town, once again.

“I will do everything possible to ensure that this issue is dealt with and I will continue to raise it in Parliament. I met with the Essex Police Commissioner to discuss how the police will deal with the issue, but he too expressed his concern that Harlow no longer has an injunction. It is surprising that the council held no consultation prior to making this decision - even with the Police Commissioner - who told me he had no knowledge of what Harlow Council was planning.”

The MP met with Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to discuss how the force would respond if unauthorised encampments began to become a regularity.

Mr Hirst said: ““Unauthorised encampments can cause significant distress to local residents and have a big impact on local communities. Since being elected in 2016 we have worked hard with local councils and Essex Police to ensure a consistent, robust approach is taken where necessary to managing these unauthorised encampments and supporting vulnerable people.”

In 2017 Essex Police created a Rural Engagement Team to focus on unauthorised encampments.

“The number of unauthorised encampments has fallen from 365 in 2017 to 201 in 2019; in the current year to date there have been just 65 unauthorised encampments”, the police commissioner said.

“This year, due to extra funding, the size of the Team will increase, further adding to their ability to focus on the issues and criminality that affect communities.”

"Where antisocial behaviour is committed I am confident Essex Police will take a firm approach to enforcement, so communities should feel confident that this is the case.”

Mr Halfon added: “Our town is emerging from the biggest crisis we have faced in decades because of the coronavirus. I’ve worked hard to secure, from the Government, over £32 million in grants and support for Harlow residents and businesses.

“After having struggled through this time, it seems wrong that residents should now be asked to spend their hard-earned council tax money - as happened last time - cleaning up the waste left by these unauthorised encampments, or fighting the anti-social behaviour.”

Harlow Council has been contacted for comment.

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