Injunction requiring travellers to vacate site upheld

An injunction requiring a group of traveller families to vacate a site in Hertfordshire they had occupied without planning permission was proportionate and necessary, the High Court has ruled.

The travellers had occupied the site over a bank holiday weekend in early 2019 and set about constructing access roads and hardstandings. Within 24 hours, the local planning authority served a stop notice and secured an emergency injunction prohibiting the families from living on the site or from undertaking further development. It also required them to remove hardcore and caravans.

The travellers failed to comply and continued to develop the site despite failing to secure retrospective permission. In court, they claimed that the council’s actions had been disproportionate in requiring them to leave the site before a planning appeal had been heard, as the group included young children and people with medical needs.

Judge Graham Wood QC found little substance in the criticism levelled at the local authority’s approach. In his view, the claimants’ stance would make nonsense of the council’s ability to issue a stop notice and secure an injunction against a flagrant breach of planning control. The travellers had been obstructive and unwilling to give their names, he noted.  He found that the local authority had acted in the public interest, finding no evidence that the injunction was disproportionate or that the council had abused the powers available to it.

In the judge’s view, the travellers would have been well aware of the need to secure planning permission before entering the land and the fact that they had occupied it over a bank holiday weekend suggested that they were trying to "steal a march" on the local authority. Moreover, he remarked, they had continued to ignore both the stop notice and the injunction by developing the site further.

These breaches were deliberate and significant, he decided. He found evidence regarding the education and welfare of some of the group sketchy and largely unsupported by medical evidence. Rejecting any suggestion that the claimants should be allowed to remain on the site until the appeal had been heard, he declined to vary the injunction.

East Hertfordshire District Council v Doherty

Ref: [2019] EWHC 2292 (QB)

Date: 5 September 2019

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