LEGAL action is to be launched to order travellers to leave an encampment in Eastwood which has been dogged with late-night parties and antisocial behaviour.

Tory St Laurence councillor Mark Flewitt shared an email from senior council officials outlining the council's next steps in securing possession of the site in Snakes Lane, Eastwood, near the David Lloyd leisure centre. 

The move comes after Southend Conservatives pressed the council to act in the wake of a series of incidents including late-night parties, public urination and an incident when a dog walker was allegedly assaulted.

An update from the council's executive director of legal services, John Williams, said: "The level of antisocial behaviour on the site, particularly the most recent incidents, is such that we believe it is now necessary and proportionate to take legal steps.

"The council now intends to take legal action through the magistrates' court to secure possession."

The email explains the council had been monitoring the encampment closely. 

In recent days, the Echo has reported checks have been taking place on the encampment, particularly around any Covid-19 risk with more travellers joining the site. 

The council's update added: "As everyone is aware, the council has been monitoring the traveller encampment off Snakes Lane, working closely with the police.

"While the police do have powers to direct trespassers to leave land under Sections 61-62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order 1994, the considerations are different to the considerations the council must take into account under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. At present the police consider this is an issue for the council to manage."

Referring to implications surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and travellers, the note adds: "Legal action by the council is not straightforward in view of the Covid situation.

"We must have regard to Government Guidance to local authorities on Covid and mitigating impacts on Gypsy and Traveller Communities.

"The guidance refers to the disproportionate effects of Covid on the Gypsy and Traveller communities and also to the Council’s public health responsibilities.

"Accordingly, it was important that these issues were properly considered as part of the decision-making process as to whether it was necessary and proportionate for the council to direct the travellers to leave."

Speaking before the announcement, Cllr Mark Flewitt, who represents St Laurence Ward said: "This group of travellers is causing unparalleled misery to the local residents with their antisocial behaviour.

"Residents have had the sale of their homes fall through, they are afraid to leave their front door and they have lost faith in the council who seems to have abandoned them in their moment of need."