The last caravans from an unauthorised encampment which set up in Harlow on Sunday evening have left the town this morning (September 15).

In what was the first instance of an unauthorised traveller encampment since the town’s High Court injunction against encampments expired in July, 29 vehicles set up camp in a green space opposite Harlow Leisurezone.

The caravans on Second Avenue and Third Avenue were given orders to leave the site following assessments by Essex Police and council officers yesterday afternoon.

Councillor Mark Ingall, leader of Harlow Council, said: “I would like to thank our community safety team and Essex Police for their work on resolving this issue so quickly. In this incidence the police were able to support us by using their section 61 powers.

“Twenty-two caravans left yesterday with the remaining seven caravans leaving this morning. We look forward to continuing the good working relationship with the police on these matters.”

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.

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.

Cllr Mark Ingall said: “Back in July this year we tried to extend our high court injunction against unauthorised encampments. 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.

“In the meantime we will continue to use the powers available to us and work closely with the Police to resolve unauthorised encampments. We will take what action the law allows and we will do it as quickly as we can to protect our green spaces.”

Harlow Community Policing Team Inspector Tony Walker said: "We know that, on occasion, unauthorised encampments can cause disruption to the local community.

"Police can only use Section 61 powers if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate in the individual circumstances.

"The act of trespass is a civil matter and we worked with the landowner, Harlow Council, to try and resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

"Unauthorised encampments are subject to regular site assessments and where criminal offences are committed and allegations of antisocial behaviour are made, we will make every effort to hold those responsible to account for their actions."

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