Harlow’s MP has blasted the council over its ‘failure’ to secure an injunction after a traveller encampment sprang up over night.

The encampment, on a green space opposite Harlow Leisurezone in Second Avenue, is comprised of about 29 vehicles which parked in the area on Sunday night.

Police and council officers are currently on site.

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, has criticised the Labour council for ‘failing to pursue’ a new injunction when the town’s protective legal order against unauthorised traveller encampments – labelled by traveller rights campaigners as ‘inhumane and discriminatory' – expired in July.

The Tory MP, who has represented the town since 2010, said: “Many residents will have woken up to see that an unauthorised encampment has moved into our town. This is deeply worrying for our community - given the major problems we have faced in ending those encampments in the past.

“This has only been possible because Harlow’s Labour council made the decision not to try and renew the injunction. They have now given the green light for unauthorised groups to trespass our town, once again.”

Harlow council withdrew its application for a new injunction on July 10 after it became clear the High Court bid would be unsuccessful.

The original injunction was obtained in 2015 to deal with a specific local problem and was extended in June 2017 for three years.

However, it became clear the High Court would not accept a new injunction bid without ‘conclusive evidence’ unauthorised encampments would cause significant issues for the town, so the council withdrew its application.

At the time, council leader Cllr Mark Ingall said the proposed injunction was at “real risk” of being rejected “which would jeopardise any chance of a future injunction being granted”.

A council spokesperson said: “Back in July this year we tried to extend our injunction. We had to withdraw our application while in court when it was clear that it would not be supported without sufficient evidence of a current issue.

“We said at the time that we would not hesitate in going back to court to apply again if persistent unauthorised encampments return as this will give us the evidence to support a fresh injunction application.

“As the high court injunction is no longer in force we will use the powers which are available to all councils. We will take what action the law allows and we will do it as quickly as we can to protect our green spaces.”

Mr Halfon, who met with Essex’s Police and Crime Commissioner earlier this year to discuss traveller encampments, added: “Our town is emerging from the biggest crisis we have faced in decades. Residents should not be asked to spend their hard-earned money - as happened last time - cleaning up the waste left by these unauthorised encampments, or fighting the anti-social behaviour. There must be zero tolerance without equivocation towards illegal encampments.

“Whilst there are significant powers available to the authorities to deal with unauthorised and illegal encampments, as MP, I will be asking the Government to strengthen these still further.”

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