An interim injunction prohibiting a group of travellers from staying on any open land in Hackney during the Olympic period has been secured by Hackney Council at the High Court.
On June 18 the High Court granted a request by Hackney Council for an injunction on 15 named Travellers, half of whom are camped on Stoke Newington Common. The injunction is designed to stop them parking on any one of 58 open spaces or parkland in the borough. It will come back to court in September, after the Olympic period.
One family unit had legal representation and a medical report. The judge decided that as long as this family signed a legal undertaking to stay off any of the pieces of land around and bordering on the Olympic area, then the injuction forbidding them to go to other open land in the borough, did not apply. But the remaining Travellers are subject to an interim injunction not to go to the 58 named places.
Councillor Sophie Linden, Cabinet Member for Crime, Sustainability and Customer Services, said: “Hackney’s parks and open spaces are for all residents and visitors to use and enjoy and we take a firm stance against any unauthorized encampments.”
“We have taken this action as a last resort because the group concerned have persistently set up unauthorised encampments on Hackney’s parks and open spaces over the past three years,” she said
Gill Brown from the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit told EastLondonLines: “I think this [legal action] is unprecendented in England.”
“The Olympics meant that the residents on the old Waterden Road council run Travellers site had to move and until recently these families would often double up on the pitches at Waterden for a while, then move to other family members and so on. The Irish Travellers on Stoke Newington Common have no where else to go .
“Some of these families have been travelling around for about 18 months. They have moved or been moved on by the council five times – around open space in the borough.
“There is a waiting list for pitches in Hackney and it will likely be years till a pitch comes empty.”
The court case also comes after the Coalition Government scrapped policies in 2010 which had been designed to develop new sites for traveller communities as well as refurbishing existing sites.
Joseph G Jones, from The Gypsy Council, felt the treatment of the Traveller community was unacceptable: “The Government and council have made it so local Gypsies and Travellers have no place to go. If the council are going to send them away they have to make they have somewhere else to go.”
Linden responded: “The Council’s policy is to support the welfare needs of Traveller families. We currently have 27 pitches for Gypsies and Travellers on five different permanent sites – the third highest in inner London.”
Ironically the dispute occurs during Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, during which Hackney Council has organized: “Free events held to celebrate the history, culture and language of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities”.
By Oliver Shaw