JANUARY UPDATE – Land off Culham Mill – Traveller Caravan Site.

In the case of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council vs Thompson (and others) which was recently held in the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division, His Honour Judge Bidder QC has now handed down his judgement.

In total the judgement comprises a 59 pages and, as His Honour Judge Bidder stated at the opening of the case, probably represents an important legal landmark.

The full document can be found here however the following is an attempt at a brief summary.

The conclusions of the statement are best summarised in the following statements which comprise some of the closing remarks of the judgement.

  1. There has, in this case, been very substantial environmental damage and there is urgency in the need to bring this unauthorised occupation to an end.
  2. I have reviewed the interests of the children. It is very clear that stability is a pressing need in their lives and their best interest lie in a stable base, and continuous schooling and health care.  However, the problems of providing that to them lie as well in the difficult decision of their parents as to whether they continue to hold by the tenets of their own culture.  Moreover, while the best interests of the children must be a primary consideration they do not overtop other consideration and, similarly, while a decision not to vary the injunction may lead to interference with their and their parents article 8 rights, there are other competing interests and the court must assess proportionality.
  3. To vary this injunction would be wholly to undermine the court’s authority and the planning system and would give a green light to “strong arm” tactics designed to bypass or unfairly influence planning decisions.
  4. I decline to vary the injunction and, apart from the adding of a defendant, I dismiss the Defendants’ application.

In outline, the travellers case was based on three basic pillars;

  • Firstly, that they had been in residence on the site since before the high court injunction was served (despite the slightly perverse recognition that they had not actually been present on the site for much of this time) and therefore, under article 8 of the UN Human Rights Act, should not be evicted from their homes.

 

  • That there was a good chance of obtaining planning permission in the near future through their retrospective planning application.

 

  • That the best interests of the children are served by remaining on the site and that the only option available to the traveller families is to return to the roadside.

 

BDBC, together with Silchester Parish Council and the Calleva Society, produced several hundred pages of evidence to oppose the Travellers’ application to vary the original High Court Injunction which would allow them temporary residency until the planning application has been evaluated and determined.  Subsequently, His Honour Judge Bidder has found against the three pillars shown above and instead found in favour of BDBC.

So what does this actually mean?  It should be noted that this case was not the main planning application.  Instead it was an application which would effectively mean that the High Court Injunction was suspended.  By refusing this application, the Judge has   determined that the injunction remains in place and is enforceable from the date that is was first served on the 21st of February.  As result, any individuals that have brought caravans onto the site or remain in residence on the site are doing so in contempt of court and risk imprisonment as a result.

From the perspective of the Parish Council and the Calleva Society, our next steps will be to continue to apply pressure on BDBC to apply for enforcement of the injunction and also to bring about a speedy determination of the planning decision.

We will continue to keep the community updated as things progress and we encourage residents to get in touch with us should they become aware of any new developments on the site.

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