Preventative injunctions are increasingly being used to protect public spaces against being used for encampments. Gareth White, Associate in Coodes Solicitors’ Commercial Disputes team, says that they can be an effective way of protecting private land against trespassing and fly tipping.
In recent months, a number of local authorities, mainly in the South East, have adopted a more proactive approach to protecting public spaces against being used by travellers for encampments. Preventative injunctions are also being used to protect land against commercial fly tipping, a growing problem that costs local authorities estimated costs exceeding £50million.
Councils including the London Borough of Hillingdon and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, have put in place preventative injunctions, sometimes known as green space injunctions, to protect public spaces. The approach has mainly been used in parks and other green spaces but is now also being adopted for ‘brown spaces’, such as car parks.
Preventative injunctions are granted by the High Court. They enable the landowner to put in place a ruling against ‘Persons Unknown’ from using the land in a particular way. Rather than reactively dealing with any named individuals who have already occupied the land, the landowner proactively states that anyone who breaches the terms of the injunction will face legal action.
Without having a preventative injunction in place, the local authority or landowner generally has to go through a long legal process of identifying the individuals involved before taking action. Having a preventative injunction means anyone who uses the land unlawfully has automatically breached a High Court injunction and could therefore be subject to fines or imprisonment.
Although these preventative injunctions are mainly associated with local authorities, they are also increasingly being used by developers to proactively deal with trespassing on building sites.
Developers who are concerned about damage being caused by trespassers are displaying notices to inform the public that they will be breaching an injunction if they break in and enter the site. Large developers are now starting to adopt this approach and I have seen a number of examples in the north of England. With so much development planned here in the South West, I expect to see more developers taking this approach.
Trespassing is a perennial problem for landowners, with some forms of trespass being civil wrongs while others, including those involving squatting, are criminal offences.
As awareness grows of the use of preventative injunctions to protect green spaces, I suspect more landowners will start to investigate the potential for adopting this approach. In particular, it could be an effective way of dealing with the growing problem of fly tipping. According to recent news reports, each year almost 5,000 fly-tipping incidents are reported to Cornwall Council with clean-up costs of almost £400,000.
Applying to the High Court for a preventative injunction against persons unknown for occupying their land, could provide landowners with a more proactive way of dealing with the problem.