Epsom & Ewell Council Takes Action on Unauthorised Encampments

On Tuesday 3rd September up to 50 caravans moved on to Stamford Green and into Horton Country Park.

Epsom and Ewell Council, earlier this year through the courts, secured an injunction that protects 57 areas of Council land in the borough that are vulnerable to unauthorised encampments. The injunction is in place for three years and applies to certain types of encampments for example 10 vehicles or more. The Council succeeded in securing this injunction because it was able to demonstrate to the court the harm and financial impact (eg as a result of significant fly typing, criminality and anti-social behaviour) that resulted from a number of previous unauthorised encampments in the borough.

You may have seen these High Court Injunctions pinned to posts and trees around the borough

As a result of this injunction, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of such encampments in the borough this year. Previously the more limited legal remedies available to the Council meant that these often took several weeks and a significant amount of work before they could be moved on. During the past few months, those few groups that have located themselves on Council land without permission, have left quickly, once they were formally made aware that the Council had an injunction in place. However, this week has been different.

On Tuesday evening  Council officers and the Police attended both sites that night to inform the groups that an injunction was in place and that they should leave. Both groups decided to ignore this direction and one of these groups took a more aggressive and confrontational stance with Council officers and the Police.

The only option available to the Council at that point was through the High Court. This involved Council officers preparing all the necessary legal documentation and local assessments needed to submit an application for a Writ to the court the following morning. The court agreed the application and the Writ was later formally sealed, allowing the Council to take action.

On Wednesday 4th Sept, armed with the Writ, and having secured the assistance of six court bailiffs and extra Police, both groups of travellers were informed that they would now be evicted. This did result in both groups finally agreeing to go, and given the size of the groups this took place during the course of the afternoon and into the evening, supervised by Council officers, the Police and the Court Bailiffs.

Although the process this week was both challenging and resource intensive, the good news is that now the Council has secured the Writ, it remains in place for the three year life of the injunction. The Council could not have secured the writ until this week, as no other groups had sought to resist the injunction once they were formally made aware that it was in place.

The Council’s successful actions this week, now removes the need to go back to the court should further unauthorised encampments occur during the three year life of the injunction. As a result, Council land has much stronger protection from unauthorised encampments than has been possible previously but the Council will still have to demonstrate that it is using its legal powers in a reasonable, balanced, and proportionate way.

Ultimately, the Council was able to resolve these two large encampments within 24 hours, returning the land to its original condition with achieving this with no significant incidents.

Well Done to the  Council’s Operations Team, Legal Team and to the Police for their extraordinary efforts this week to help secure a positive outcome for the Council and its residents.

As a lot of you are aware there was a further unauthorised encampment on the corner of Livingston Park, which was on private land owned by Greenbelt Energy Limited. There was concern within the community and by local Councillors that the Landowner was taking insufficient action to manage and ultimately resolve the situation.  As a result both the Council and the Police have been in regular contact with the land owner at a senior level to press them to use the legal routes available to them to resolve the situation. The site was also vacated this week.

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