Update: Travellers At Rayleigh Leisure Centre

When will the travellers leave the site?

Unless the leave on their own accord, officers from Rochford District Council have informed me that the matter is now in the hands of its legal team to follow the legal process to remove the travellers from the site. This could potentially take slightly longer than normal due to the COVID-19 situation and the judicial system.

Why don’t the police just move them on?

The police have powers to move Gypsies or Travellers off land where criminal activity by them can be established – just as crime committed by settled people has to be proven. The police also have discretionary powers to direct Travellers off land where group behaviour goes against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. In certain circumstances (for example, where the Gypsies/Travellers have with them six or more vehicles), officers may use powers under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These powers will only be used in situations of serious criminality or public disorder not capable of being addressed by normal criminal legislation and in which the trespassory occupation of the land is a relevant factor. The police are bound by the Human Rights Act and may be constrained to avoid using Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in circumstances where it would preclude welfare considerations from being applied by the civil courts.

I’m a resident and I’m not happy about this!

The police have specifically asked that all incidents be reported to them in a Facebook post today.

As a Councillor, what can you do?

In August 2019, after becoming increasing frustrated by the lack of any action being taken by the Council I contacted the MP for Rayleigh & Wickford to express my concerns. He subsequently wrote back to me in September 2019. The letter is published here.

I have recently spoken to the new Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, who I know is keen to make progress in this area and I am hopeful that we may yet see something on this subject in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech next month

Mark Francois – September 2019

What is the Council doing about travellers in our district?

The Council has been questioned about this matter repeatedly and the current situation remains unchanged to my knowledge. The Managing Director referenced the MTFS (budget) in this video recorded at a planning policy committee meeting. It’s hard to believe that there is financial reason that a legal travellers site hasn’t been brought forward by the Council when it is public knowledge that they are in the process of splurging over £3.4m on new offices!

Why doesn’t the Council do more?

This is a good question! In the past the Council has taken out interim injunctions such as in this case here. There is case after case across our district that the Council has failed to act upon. Just take a look here

What can action can you take?

Many residents are as equally frustrated as I am along with my fellow Lib Dem ward Councillors, by the lack of action taken by the Council and the time it takes them to move on illegal travellers. Unfortunately, we as ward members, do not hold the power to ‘make things happen’ so my best advice is to write to those that do and ask why they have not taken action on this important matter and provided transit sites, a legal travellers site as defined in the adopted core strategy & why our open spaces aren’t better protected against illegal incursions using legal methods such as injunctions.

Shaun Scrutton, Managing Director RDC – [email protected]
Ian Ward, Portfolio Holder for Planning – [email protected]
Dave Sperring, Chairman Planning Policy Committee – [email protected]
Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh & Wickford – [email protected]

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About the author 

James Newport

Essex County Councillor for Rayleigh North, Rochford District Councillor for Downhall & Rawreth and Rayleigh Town Councillor for Sweyne.

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