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Newspaper Columns

KM Column - Unauthorised Encampments - 13 June 2019

Over the past few months Edenbridge, Platt, Shipbourne, Leybourne Chase and Leybourne have all had increasing problems with unauthorised encampments. Not only does this usually cause an inconvenience for communities, but it is also often involves a lot of mess that needs to be cleared up, with the burden likely falling on local volunteers.

The appearance and presence of unauthorised encampments is of course, frustrating, but more frustrating is the difficulty to get rid of them once they’ve arrived. Ultimately, the process needed to be followed is complex. But more often than not, it’s also inconsistent. For some encampments, such as those in Shipbourne and Platt, Section 61 Orders have been issued which allow the police to evict people quickly. But in places such as Leybourne and Leybourne Chase, these orders haven’t been used at all, leading to very lengthy and unnecessary delays.

Steps forward are already being made and I was delighted that in February this year an extra £1.5million was made available to councils to help enforce planning rules and tackle unauthorised sites. But it’s not the only way steps by our Government can be made to help our communities. If the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 can be amended, police will be able to take tougher action more quickly, which should make a big difference.

I am only too aware how these unauthorised encampments affect people’s lives on a day-to-day basis and the necessity that more is done. That is why I will be attending a public meeting on 25 July 2019 at 7.45 in Leybourne Village Hall with Leybourne Parish Council Chair, Bob Ulph, Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and District Commander Chief Inspector Steenhuis. I hope I will see you then.

 

Georgie Welford