Published On: 16th May 2024

Brentwood Borough Council must urgently withdraw women who have children from their injunction.

Brentwood Borough Council are going to court with the intention of sending the mothers of 11 young children to prison. They are doing it to try to stop them living in caravans on land that is owned by their family and which will be the subject of a Planning Inquiry before the end of the year.

We urgently need Brentwood to withdraw the women who have children from their injunction. 

The background

The family of Irish Travellers were living on land owned by a family member for many years without planning permission. Seeking more space as their family grew, they moved onto a neighbouring section of Green Belt land that the family also own, as there were no alternative sites or pitches available in Brentwood. 

But shortly after this move, Brentwood Council obtained what’s known as an interim ex parte injunction against the family. This required that there was to be no residential occupation on the land. However, the injunction didn’t mention that the families were currently living on the land.

Mixed messages

In need of help, the families reached out to a private law firm, asking for a solicitor to attend a hearing with them. However, no application to vary the injunction to allow them to stay pending the planning process was made, despite the fact that it incorrectly stated that no one was living in the caravans. The court ordered that the interim injunction continue.

The families were advised by their solicitor to pack up and leave the land, which they did, only to be told by police to return to it so that they didn’t obstruct the highway.

After several delays beyond the family’s control, a final hearing to review the injunction was listed. The Council had originally told them that this hearing was unlikely to go ahead as their planning application was likely to be resolved by then. 

Having been somewhat reassured by the Council’s words, the families had thought that they had time to breathe as they made plans to process their planning application instead. 

However, the hearing did take place, and a final injunction was imposed, prohibiting the families from living or building on their own land at all. 

Targeted for the way they live

But it did not stop there. Brentwood Council then decided to issue ‘committal proceedings’ against the residents on the basis that they were in breach of the terms of the injunction. This included the fact they hadn’t moved off the land, and further allegations that they were breaching other parts of the injunction by putting up walls and fencing. 

The Council waited until the first day of the final injunction hearing to issue these proceedings. They did not tell the families that any of this would occur or be included.

Now, these women with young children could face being sent to prison or a penalty or sanction for breach of the injunction against them. 

How have PILC worked on this case?

PILC saw that the opportunity to apply to vary the final injunction and defend the committal proceedings on the basis that the families’ caravans were on their land before the injunction was issued and that their planning application has prospects of success. We have:

  • Instructed a planning consultant with expertise in Gypsy and Travellers’ planning law to produce an expert report. This identified that the families’ planning application had a prospect of success, taking into account  the lack of alternative sites for Gypsies and Travellers in Brentwood, and the children’s best interests.
  • Instructed an independent welfare social worker to produce a report on the welfare of the young children and the potential consequences to them of being moved off the land and/or their mothers being committed to prison.
  • Instructed Counsel Alan Masters of One Pump Court to advise as to the prospect of varying the injunction.
  • Applied to vary the injunction. 

The need for local pitches in Brentwood

There is a distinct lack of sites (called ‘pitches’) for people to live on in Brentwood. All Local Authorities have a duty under Planning Policy for Traveller Sites (PPTS) to provide a 5-year supply of sites for Gypsies and Travellers against their locally-set targets. 

Brentwood Council haven’t done a needs assessment for sites for Gypsies and Travellers for over seven years. Their needs assessment data is woefully out of date, and was collected at a time where a restricted definition of Gypsies and Travellers was used, meaning less need was identified than there actually was

What happens next? 

If these families are evicted from the land, there is nowhere else for them to go. They face living on the roadside where they will likely be moved on by the police again.

We urgently need Brentwood to withdraw the women who have children from their injunction. 

Instead of ripping these families apart, Brentwood Borough Council need to undertake a new, up-to-date assessment of the need for sites for Gypsies and Travellers in the area. They must provide suitable alternative sites to meet this need. 

Three ways to help

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We’re shocked to find out that this family of Irish Travellers could go to prison for living on their own land. We urge @Brentwood_BC to withdraw the women from their injunction, so 11 children can stay with their mums.

@Brentwood_BC don’t rip this family apart. We urge you to withdraw the women from the injunction now!

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