Traveller group on Chiswick Back Common served Legal Notices to Leave

Image above: Illegal traveller encampment on Chiswick Back Common

Group has until 10.45am on Thursday 3 August to move on

A group of Irish Travellers who have camped on Chiswick Back Common have been served a Legal Notice to Leave by Hounslow Council.

The group has set up an unauthorised encampment in the northeastern corner of Chiswick Back Common, close to the entrance of Turnham Green Tube Station. On Wednesday afternoon (2 August) five caravans, two cars and a van were parked near the footpath between the Rocks Lane Sports Centre and Turnham Green Terrace. Each vehicle was served an eviction notice by LB Hounslow at 10.45am on Wednesday.

While the footpath near the railway embankment was not obstructed, men could be heard arguing loudly with each other on Wednesday, three young men in the group raising their voices and swearing at each other from their separate caravans.

Hearing the argument, people using the common, including some elderly people and parents with children, decided against continuing their route through the common, opting instead to avoid the encampment while the group argued.

Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillor Joanna Biddolph told The Chiswick Calendar residents had reported “worrying behaviour” from the group, including certain people behaving aggressively as well as reports of joyriding. Cllr Biddolph said:

“They have 24 hours to leave. If [they have] not left by 10.45am tomorrow [Thursday 3 August], they will be summoned to court and this action usually makes them leave.

“The neighbourhood enforcement ream is keeping a close watch as there has been a lot of antisocial behaviour. If anyone sees any antisocial behaviour please report it to the police and get a CAD number to build a case.”

Image above: Travellers could be heard shouting and swearing at each other on Wednesday afternoon

Police could seize vehicles if eviction notices are ignored

Should the Travellers ignore the eviction notices, police do have powers to move them on under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which enables senior officers to direct those in an unauthorised encampment to leave land if they are in an encampment that consists of six or more vehicles; any member of the encampment has “caused damage, disruption or distress”; or their encampment is on (or partly on) a highway.

Last year, amendments to existing legislation granted the police enhanced powers to remove unauthorised encampments. If requested to leave and someone fails to do so “as soon as reasonably practicable,” the police can arrest them. Police also have the authority to seize and remove vehicles from those suspected of committing this offence.

National guidance for police officers suggests that the mere presence of an unauthorised encampment, without any aggravating factors, should not automatically trigger the use of eviction powers.

Hounslow Council provides 30 pitches and facilities for Travellers and Gypsies at the Hartlands Caravan Park in Heston, which is an authorised location for such settlements.

If residents come across illegal encampments, they can report them to Hounslow Council by calling 020 8583 5555.

Hounslow Council have been approached for comment.