Set out below are the most recent responses to the questions I raised yesterday with the various interested partners as we enter the clean-up phase following their departure.
- Leeds City Council Housing:
Cllr Anderson – Leeds Beckett secured a possession order yesterday which was enforced today. The G&T (Gypsy & Traveller) team have not yet had any reports of a new encampment and I will advise you when/if we do. I apologise if you feel that we have not kept you informed of progress to recover possession; although I would state that Leeds Beckett was taking the lead on securing possession and we were reliant on updates from them. Leeds Beckett decided to go through a court process to recover possession, rather than instructing a bailiff to evict, and this added time to the eviction process.
The site is jointly owned by Leeds Beckett and University of Leeds. We will need to discuss a collective site security plan with them.
We take possession action when a trespass occurs and can’t pre-emptively seek a possession order for possible trespass. Case law states that injunction action can be taken if there is a high risk of trespass but this needs to be proportionate: we can’t request a cross-city injunction and need to demonstrate a regularity of encampment. It is therefore difficult to stop Travellers, who are intent on moving from accessible site to accessible site from doing so but we do what we can in respect of better securing sites, swiftly evicting, looking at injunction action where feasible, tackling criminal and anti-social activity.
2. Update From The Police
Cllr Anderson, To address your points from a Policing perspective, we regard this as a citywide issue and Traveller encampment activity has impacted upon Adel considerably less than other areas. The reason the Police have not taken any enforcement action to evict the encampment is that we are only able to Consider taking such action if requested to do so by the landowner. No such request has been made and for the Police to act in this situation would be in breach of legislation. There have been no arrests arising from the issues caused. While offences appear to have been committed we have no witnesses and no identified perpetrators so the evidential test cannot be met. There has been a regular policing presence on the Bedquilts car park and regular visits to the site. The local officer PC Ingham has incorporated visits into her routine patrols, I have visited in my liaison capacity and engagement has been maintained throughout the life of the encampment.
In terms of why the Travellers are allowed to move from site to site, this is again a citywide issue. Police do not have Powers to restrict movement except in very specific circumstances. Restricting Travellers moving from one location to another does not meet this criteria. The trespass committed by the Travellers is a civil one and does not become criminal until a Court Order has been obtained. The situation we are facing citywide is that not only are we faced with an increase in the number of encampments but that the encampments are becoming larger. This means that the supply of accessible land is restricted and the same sites are being occupied more regularly. Access to this land is to some extent dependent on how well defended the land is from such trespass.
3. Further Police Update
On another subject, [A colleague] and I personally oversaw the removal of the Bedquilts travellers today. There is a new (large) lock on the gate and we followed the convoy of caravans to Bradford! Please could you pass the message out on your end. I believe that LCC are on with the clean-up side of things already.
4. Area Officer, Parks and Countryside LCC (Leeds City Council) re Leeds University Funded Clean up:
I have been in consultation with the university in regards to Bedquilts site, [Leeds University] has ask LCC to quote him for the site clearance. This work will be undertaken tomorrow and possible the next day. Regarding the faeces we do not remove this as it will dissipate into the earth over a couple of days.