Lawyers say council anti-Traveller camp injunctions “a serious threat facing the travelling way of life”
Lawyers at a Gypsy and Traveller legal conference have said that council injunctions banning encampments from public and common land “are the current most serious threat to the nomadic and travelling way of life.”
At the conference, organised by Traveller law experts Community Law Partnership (CLP) and No.5 Chambers, updates were also given about the Governments response to the recent consultation on Traveller encampments and site development and on the new planning rule that allows councils to refuse to accept repeat planning applications in certain circumstances.
Marc Willers QC, a barrister from Garden Court Chambers, told the conference that the recent victory in the High Court against Bromley’s application for an extension to their borough wide injunction banning camping on public and common land was under threat. Bromley Council were appealing the court’s decision and several other councils were joining the appeal on Bromley’s side, he said.
The victory for Travellers in the High Court came in June after NGO London Gypsies and Travellers, represented by CLP and Marc Willers QC, successfully persuaded a judge to refuse Bromley Councils application for a borough wide injunction.
In the landmark ruling, Deputy Judge Mulcahy QC said that the use of an injunction was “not fair or proportionate” and that she was concerned about the cumulative effect of such injunctions if every council was to get one. The Judge also said common land could not be covered by any injunction as councils did not own common land and only managed it.
Chris Johnson, senior partner at CLP, said that he expected the appeal by Bromley Council against the ruling would be heard “before Christmas”. He urged Gypsy and Traveller charities and environment and civil liberty organisation to contact CLP about intervening on the side of London Gypsies and Travellers. He added that protest camps and homeless tent camps could be vulnerable to borough wide injunctions as most prohibited any kind of camping on public and/or common land and not just camping with vehicles by Travellers. He said the effects to civil liberties were immense and that many councils would be watching the coming appeal with interest.
Debby Kennett, CEO of London Gypsies and Travellers, thanked the lawyers for their pro bono work representing them against Bromley Council but added that with an appeal looming, the charity was going to start a crowdfunding appeal to help towards the legal fees and their on expenses. She added that bringing this important court case that has effectively deterred other London boroughs from applying for their own borough wide injunctions banning camping and that LGT would soon be starting the crowdfunder to help support the ongoing legal battle.
For the update from the lawyers on the Government’s response to the consultation on Traveller camps and developments and information on the new planning rule that allows councils to refuse to accept repeat planning applications in certain circumstances; in the Traveller’s Times Online in the next couple of weeks.
By Mike Doherty/TT News
If you are interested in intervening on London Gypsies and Travellers side in the appeal then contact Community Law Partnership’s Traveller advice line on: 0121 685 8677 for an initial conversation.
(Main picture: London Gypsies and Travellers and their supporters and legal team celebrate their victory against Bromley Council outside the High Court, London. Picture credit Mike Doherty)