Harlow: working together to address local concerns
On the morning of Monday July 14, I was pleased to facilitate a meeting in Harlow, called at short notice by Robert Halfon, involving Harlow’s MP, Essex Police, local and county councillors, and other representatives of the local community, to address concerns about traveller encampments in areas such as Third Avenue, Latton Common, and Harlow Common. It was also important to satisfy myself as Police and Crime Commissioner that the police response was appropriate.
I felt there was a frank and open exchange of views at the meeting, and a constructive recognition of the different roles and areas of responsibility of the various agencies. It was agreed the discussion would finish at 9:15am to enable the group to take a tour of the various sites, but it did not finish until 9:45am.
Unfortunately, I had a long standing and pre-existing commitment which meant that I was not able to join the tour. I did however visit two of the areas where travellers were at that stage camped.
I will continue to listen to the voices of all the communities of Essex, and my own actions will be determined by a clear set of principles.
Firstly, my expectation is that Essex Police continues to deal with illegality and unlawful behaviour fairly and firmly, acting on the basis of the available evidence. Assistant Chief Constable Wortley is clear that Essex Police will always enforce the law without fear or favour.
Secondly, there needs to be co-ordinated working between all the parties – particularly Essex Police, the local council, Essex County Council, landowners and travellers to deliver both short and medium term solutions to these issues.
Thirdly, councils across the country are encouraged to ensure there is adequate provision for travellers in their area, and in Essex this would most likely include a very small number of dedicated transit sites. I am disappointed that there is not a single transit site for travellers in our county, as the provision of such an area might help to prevent some of the frustration which we are seeing in Harlow.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex