Blanket ban on unauthorised camps proposed for investigation as way to tackle traveller incursions in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 11:00 18 September 2019

Caravans of Irish travelling community parked up on Bernards Heath in St Albans.

Caravans of Irish travelling community parked up on Bernards Heath in St Albans.

Archant

A blanket ban on unauthorised camps in the district is being proposed as a method to tackle traveller incursions.

The camp when travellers pulled up on Bernards Heath.The camp when travellers pulled up on Bernards Heath.

St Albans City and District Council is considering banning unapproved camps on its land and installing physical obstacles around the sites, such as barriers and ditches.

The injunction would allow the council to take immediate action on trespassers without consulting the court.

It is a tactic taken up by other local authorities, such as Hertsmere Borough Council.

St Albans council's current method starts with officers visiting the site and bailiffs checking the welfare of the trespassers.

Herts police enforceing an anti-trespassing order on travellers on Bernards Heath. Picture: Herts policeHerts police enforceing an anti-trespassing order on travellers on Bernards Heath. Picture: Herts police

They then serve a direction to vacate, and if that is not complied with the council have to go to the magistrates' court for an order to leave within a certain time frame.

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This all takes an average of five days and is impeded by weekends when the magistrates' court is not sitting.

Chair of St Albans council's planning, resources, housing and commercial scrutiny committee, Cllr Teresa Heritage, said: "We must respect the rights of travellers to enjoy their way of life and to move around the country to authorised sites that we and other councils have set aside for them.

"However, the rights of farmers and other landowners, along with residents, also need to be upheld and that means taking appropriate action against unauthorised camps when do they occur."

Representatives from Harpenden Town Council, Herts police, the Hertfordshire police and crime commissioner's office, Hertfordshire County Council's Gypsy Section, and the Barnet and St Albans branch of the National Farmers' Union.

Cllr Heritage said there is a "feeling that we are slower than we could be to deal with such incursions": "There have been five unauthorised encampments in the district this year and it's important that when one happens that people are aware of who they can turn to for advice and what they can do."

This includes a camp on Bernards Heath at the end of May and on Harpenden Common in August.

The planning, resources, housing and commercial scrutiny committee agreed to ask the cabinet to investigate the potential of implementing this injunction, providing perimeter security, and improving communication with the public.

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