A group of travellers thrown out of the borough could face tougher sanctions if they return to the same site. A total of 15 caravans were moved on by council officers from Lloyd Park, Croydon, on Thursday, 4 July. As well as being abusive and threatening to council staff, they had been causing damage to the sites they occupied and leaving behind heaps of rubbish. The extent of this was revealed by the £25,000 clean-up costs required after they stayed at Croydon Athletic Football Ground near Mayfield Road. The picture shows the mess they left in Sanderstead Recreation Ground last week: mounds of builders' rubbish, domestic garbage and and an entire caravan (but minus the wheels that would have allowed us to take it away).
After last week’s eviction, which was also attended by police, they left the borough.
A new ‘memorandum of understanding’ is now being drawn up between police and the council which could see travellers face arrest if they return to the same location, under powers known as a section 61 notice.
In April the council announced it would apply to the courts to take out an injunction against groups responsible for repeated illegal encampments. However whereas seeking an injunction would require evidence to be collated and presented to a court, the section 61 powers offer a ‘quick fix’ solution that can take immediate effect.
Last year council officers had to deal with 83 unauthorised encampments, which in some cases required bailiffs being brought in to assist, at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £128,000. Already this year there have been 37 encampments with the majority in parks and on the public highway or council-owned land.
Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety and public protection, said: “These travellers were a particularly nasty group, who were threatening and abusive.
“Thursday’s operation sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of behaviour in Croydon.
“The pictures illustrate only too well the amount of mess and destruction they unleashed on one of the borough’s green spaces.
“In partnership with police, we are taking a hard-line approach to illegal encampments such as these, and these additional powers will enable us to take tough action where necessary.”
Superintendent Rob Atkin, Deputy Croydon Police Borough Commander, said:
“We will be working closely with local partners and the council to ensure we're using the full range of powers available to us all to tackle any illegal encampments on the borough.
“Any groups that continue with this behaviour can expect to be dealt with robustly.”