Legal battle ends with people living in Portsmouth encampment ordered to move on

PEOPLE exploiting open land for months by setting up home on it have been ordered to clear out.

A judge ruled families living on a site for months at Ferry Road and Fort Cumberland, Eastney, must now leave.

Motor homes left at Ferry Road in Eastney on Wednesday evening

Motor homes left at Ferry Road in Eastney on Wednesday evening

Homeless people and some keeping boats at the site were among those living rent-free at the site.

Now senior councillor Donna Jones has warned anyone seeking to take advantage of unsecured land - including people from the traveller community - that they must think twice.

Portsmouth City Council won a court order on Wednesday to move on the motor home owners.

By that evening just six were left – with the rest being told they must depart.

Phil Mills, Michael Jones, Darren Brown, Lorna Orley and Lisa Thorn have been ordered to leave the site at Ferry Road in Eastney

Phil Mills, Michael Jones, Darren Brown, Lorna Orley and Lisa Thorn have been ordered to leave the site at Ferry Road in Eastney

Warning anyone else Tory group leader Cllr Jones  – who said people staying at the site were from caravan clubs – said: ‘People from anywhere coming abusing the site is simply not on – and it’s important to send a strong message to the caravan club community that they cannot come down and stay on public land.’

Council leader Cll Gerald Vernon-Jackson added it was not possible to seize their vehicles or get costs awarded to the council as the vehicles are homes.

He added: ‘The trouble is we need to go to court – it's a real pain.’

It comes as borough councils in Havant, Fareham and Gosport have all had to deal with travellers setting up shop for weeks at a time at common land, sports centres and village greens.

A sofa, motor home and car left at Ferry Road in Eastney on Wednesday

A sofa, motor home and car left at Ferry Road in Eastney on Wednesday

While few costs were immediately available yesterday, it's thought they run into thousands of pounds' worth of officers time and legal expenses.

Fareham Borough Council spent £350 on a court order alone this summer.

Fareham's leader Councillor Sean Woodward said: 'It's cost thousands of pounds in officers' time, clear-up, tipping charges.

'We act very quickly in fact we act immediately, to move travellers on.

Brian Rayner outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court after being ordered to leave Ferry Road in Eastney

Brian Rayner outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court after being ordered to leave Ferry Road in Eastney

'We've got something of a reputation as a traveller-unfriendly council.

'We like to look after our residents and people don't like the intimidation of their public spaces being overrun by encampments.

As reported, Fort Fareham and Fareham Leisure Centre saw traveller encampments this year.

On Wednesday, Portsmouth Magistrates' Court heard the city council issued four notices ordering people at Ferry Road and Fort Cumberland to leave over the summer, which were ignored.

Eight people living at the site opposed the order.

But despite their evidence against it, district judge Anne Arnold gave the local authority powers to ensure the site is cleared.

Rebecca Stephenson, Lorna Orley, Lisa Thorn, Phil Mills, Luke Rawson, Brian Rayner, Michael Jones and Darren Brown represented themselves during the hearing.

They claimed the council had not offered them sufficient housing alternatives and had labelled them as 'druggies and alcoholics'.

The city council strongly denies it characterised them in this way.

Speaking about the affect the order would have, in his evidence Mr Mills said: 'I have not had a very good year with my dad passing away.

'I went to see Portsmouth City Council after being made homeless but they wanted to put me in a hostel with drug addicts and alcoholics.

'I am looking at trying to rebuild my life. I have started a new job and I just need time to get some money together.

'I need something that is stable in my life.'

Miss Stephenson, listed as the owner of a motorhome, said she needed until November 1 when she can then move back to a holiday home.

In her submissions, she said: 'I run a holiday let in Eastney but customers are using it until November 1.

'I would like to allow time to move me and my daughter back there when we can so we have a roof over our heads.'

Mr Brown, owner of a Chevrolet motorhome, questioned the way they were treated by the council.

He told the court: 'There has been a defamation of character and slander by the council.

'We have had no help from the council in finding accommodation. All they have given us is hostels with people who have issues with drugs and alcohol.

'We are not druggies or alcoholics, I have worked my whole life. We are being let down by the council.'

Mr Rayner had further concerns as he has a boat at the harbour and pays for moorings. He also said he moved his van from the land when requested by the council.

He said: 'I felt the council were bullying and intimidating. They put up permit parking only signs but have not been enforcing them.

'I have had my boat for nearly nine years and pay to keep it there. I should have access to it.'

The other defendants chose not to give evidence.

District judge Arnold was given a statement by council warden Warren Amore about his visits to the site and his interactions with the people living there.

His statement included the notices given to them on July 20, August 15, September 5 and September 10.

District judge Arnold said: 'What the respondents of the order have done, and in a perfectly dignified way, is to challenge what they see as being labelled as troublemakers. 

'They have raised concerns about the facilities made available to them if they are removed and are being critical of the way in which some of them feel they have been treated by the council.

'What is clear to me, and what I am satisfied beyond all probability, is that the notices served by the council have been made perfectly properly.'