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Homeless group camping in Fant can't be evicted

The group of homeless people camped out on the banks of the River Medway at Fant cannot be moved on by the council because they are on privately owned land, concerned residents have been told.

Householders near the encampment, a few hundred yards from Tovil Footbridge in Maidstone, say they have been kept awake by shouting and noise, sometimes at four in the morning, as well as having to contend with the bushes near the public right of way along the towpath being used as a toilet.

But Julie Allingham, the council's assistant community protection officer, has written to residents to explain: "The current encampment is made up of a group of Polish nationals who were moved on from another location."

The encampment of homeless people in Fant
The encampment of homeless people in Fant

She said: "The land they are presently occupying is privately owned by a number of individuals, and therefore it would be a civil matter for the landowners to take action with regard to trespassing/illegal entry.

"However, both the council's community protection and outreach teams are working with the occupants in an attempt to manage the problem.

"This might take some time and I appreciate is a frustrating situation for residents close by, but we, the police and our outreach team will continue to engage with them in order to try to resolve the situation."

The homeless group are said to have been previously living under the Sainsbury's store in Maidstone, off Romney Place.

The council's response has not pleased Alan Newman, from nearby Clifford Way, who said that the public's use of the towpath was being inpaired.

He points out the towpath was previously declared part of the council's river park.

He said: "It seems the council has have installed bench seating and a picnic table and planted out an area for the public to enjoy on private land, where no authority has any jurisdiction.

"The landowners must be known for this work to have taken place so they need to be contacted and advised to take the necessary action."

Cllr Margaret Rose: The council is always willing to engage
Cllr Margaret Rose: The council is always willing to engage

Cllr Margaret Rose (Lab) is one of the ward councillors for Fant. She was only elected last May.

She said: "We as a nation show great compassion and it would seem that these people will now receive more help.

"This can be a difficult problem, taking time and, in some cases, can cost a lot of money to resolve and be very frustrating while the matter is being dealt with."

But Cllr Rose spoke up for council officers, adding: "In my short time as a councillor, I have found Maidstone Borough Council to be efficient, caring and willing to promptly engage whenever contacted, no matter what the issue might be."

It is believed the camp has been by the river for the past four weeks.

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