Published: 16:06, 04 February 2021
| Updated: 16:09, 04 February 2021
Travellers who pitched up in a council car park have been accused of flouting Covid rules by moving around during lockdown.
Four caravans arrived in Hampton Pier car park in Herne Bay last week and have remained there since.
Residents have criticised those in the encampment, as the Government's guidelines state people should stay local amid the national lockdown.
One Herne Bay resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "It’s used by residents all the time - people walk along there, fish there and park there.
"They just landed there last week, so they are moving around when we’re not meant to be.
"The 'stay at home' order has been flouted.
"I think on this occasion, because we are in dangerous times, they shouldn’t be moving around and should stay where they came from."
The resident also raised health and safety concerns because of gas cannisters and electric cables lying around in the car park.
"I wouldn’t usually make a fuss, but I was so shocked that this was being allowed to happen now and we’re meant to be careful," they added.
"I’m not against them, it’s just what the situation is at the moment with the lockdown and not moving around, but they seem to be able to do so and present a public health issue."
Stringent powers allowing Canterbury City Council to break up illegal encampments on its land without court approval are no longer valid, a judge ruled last year.
The local authority had been benefitting from possessing an injunction which made it illegal for unauthorised travellers to pitch up on open spaces and car parks across the district.
Thanks to the powers, any trespasser was in contempt of court and potentially faced sanctions, including up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
But the council’s “cruel” and “draconian” measures were shackled following a ruling by the High Court - much to the delight of the gypsy and traveller community.
The city council's spokesman Rob Davies said: "Four caravans belonging to traveller families have been parked in Hampton car park for the past few days. The group includes young children.
"Given the lockdown, we are allowing them to stay in the car park at the moment. This is being formally reviewed each week and our officers are checking the site each day.
"Our approach is in line with national guidance to local authorities, which asks us to support these communities during lockdown by providing water and sanitation and minimising the amount of times they are moved from one place to another.
"The car park continues to be in use and there is additional parking nearby."