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Maidstone Borough Council promises swifter action on travellers' camps

Maidstone Borough Council believes it is getting to grips with illegal encampments.

Since the start of the year, the council said its Community Protection Team had successfully moved on five unauthorised camps within 24 hours of their arrival.

The swifter action has been made possible because the council is now exercising its powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, rather than relying on Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Travellers at Gatland Park in Fant in April this year
Travellers at Gatland Park in Fant in April this year

Previously the council had to apply to a court for an eviction notice to remove the encampment. Often, this process would take up to seven days toenact.

But now the council immediately issues notices prohibiting certain anti-social activity from taking place at the camps. If the notice is breached, that becomes a criminal offence enabling the council to take action.

However, the council only acts if the camp is on public land. Private landowners still have to make their own arrangements.

Travellers at Penenden Heath in May this year
Travellers at Penenden Heath in May this year

The council has been unsuccessful in moving a tented camp of homeless EU immigrants from the banks of the River Medway at Fant, where they have been for the past six weeks.

On average, the borough says it experiences around 12 unauthorised encampments per year.

The council's community protection team liaises with the borough'shousing team to ensure that those with a genuine need for housing get the correct support and help that is available to them.

The council's senior community protection officer, Steve Noble, said: “We are keen to stress that we are not targeting a specific community or those with a genuine housing need.

"However, we are determined to proactively deal with issues that are sometimes associated with unauthorised encampments, which can lead to damage to Maidstone Borough Council land and are detrimental to the area.

"These behaviours include the dumping of waste, damage caused by the driving of vehicles over recreation grounds and the lighting of fires."

Mr Noble said: “We take pride in working for the people of the borough and hope that the positive actions we take demonstrate that.”

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