Council to prosecute landlords who have failed to remove illegal caravans from Smithy Fen

1 August 2017

Council bosses have confirmed they will be prosecuting landlords at a Travellers’ site in Cottenham who have failed to remove unauthorised additional caravans and static homes.

This follows South Cambridgeshire District Council issuing breach of planning condition legal notices to landlords and occupants of 22 pitches at the site at the beginning of July.

Council enforcement officers will be visiting the site from today (Tuesday 1 August) to establish the full details of who has failed to comply with the breach of planning notice so they have all the information needed to prosecute through the Magistrates’ Court.

The Council has continued to monitor activity at the site during the last four weeks and has confirmed that a number of people, and some caravans, that were on the site illegally have already moved on – but a full assessment is needed over the coming days to identify the current breaches of planning in relation to the notices issued.

During the initial investigation before the Council’s action at the beginning of July, officers found some non-Travellers living at the site – another breach of the planning conditions that clearly state that only Gypsies and Travellers can live in the homes that have the appropriate planning permission.

The legal notices gave 28 days for the caravans and static homes that do not have planning permission to be removed and non-Travellers to move from the site – this expired at the end of day on Monday 31 July.

The Council’s housing team are supporting 12 families with medial conditions or young children who have made contact since the breach of planning notices were issued.

Councillors have confirmed that no additional legal action will be taken against the families who have contacted the Council and are being supported to move on over the next 6 weeks.

Ahead the initial legal action, the Council carried out a full and detailed investigation and established the housing needs of the people living on site who could become homeless due to enforcement action to remove the illegal caravans. Councillors have said that this needs assessment has helped the Council provide appropriate support to vulnerable people as well as making sure any future legal action is not delayed unnecessarily.

There are 49 legal pitches at Smithy Fen. In general, each one will be made up of a static caravan and a touring caravan. Of the 49 pitches, 22 were in breach of planning due to excess caravans or static homes, or being rented to a non-Traveller.

Cllr Nick Wright, Deputy Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We are targeting the landlords who are renting the illegal caravans and are taking an equally tough stance against the people living there who have ignored our breach of planning condition legal notice.

“There are around 15 families at the site who had been identified as potentially vulnerable and I’m pleased that most of these are working with us to find somewhere else to live. We will not be taking further legal action against these people for the next six weeks as we support them to move on.

“On the first day after the breach of planning condition notice expired we have got enforcement officers out on site gathering the evidence needed for us to take the next step up in the legal process. The facts gathered from our team at Smithy Fen will mean we can apply to the courts and prosecute.

“It is frustrating for the Council, and the vast majority of people in the area who live within the law, that the legal process means we cannot resolve these breaches in planning overnight. However, it is vital that we take a considered and measured approach so we reach the right result.

“We will be prosecuting as quickly as we can and are already looking ahead and exploring all legal avenues available until the situation is resolved.”