The Dale Farm eviction has been made a more challenging task for the enforcement officers by the arrival of activists and protesters looking to support the Dale Farm residents.
Protesters have long been a problem for landowners and local authorities – Parliament Square, the Newbury Bypass, Greenham Common, to name just a few high profile examples, as well as more local protests against roads and building developments.
A developer, landowner or local authority could be seriously impeded by the arrival and encampment of protesters, both because of damage they could cause to the site and the delay and cost of their removal.
Protesters can cause significant damage to a site - building blockades, tunnelling, encampments and general detritus on site. And, of course, part of their aim is to generate negative publicity for the proposed development and the developer.
What can developers and landowners do?
Developers and landowners (or their solicitor or agent) can apply for a court order for possession under Part 55 Civil Procedure Rules, which is then enforced by High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO), using a Writ of Possession.
Alternatively, they can instruct a Certificated Bailiff to remove trespassers from land without a court order under Common Law, as long as the land is identified on a Land Registry Map or Local Authority Plan.
What can local authorities do?
Local authorities cannot act to remove persons from land under Common Law.
They must obtain a court order for possession, which can then be enforced by an HCEO. This does take longer than acting under Common Law, which unfortunately does give the protesters time to become more deeply entrenched and promote their cause.
We always recommend that a risk assessment be carried out before taking action, even more so in the case of protesters, as it is highly likely that specialist equipment will be needed to remove them where they have locked themselves onto structures or cemented themselves in, as well as specialist teams of tunnellers, abseilers, tree climbers, to mention just a few.
Securing the site
Once the protesters have been removed, it is essential to thoroughly secure the site to prevent future occupation and /or disruption. This may include a perimeter wall or fence, security guards, possibly with dogs, CCTV and remote monitoring. At The Sheriffs Office we will advise our clients on the best way to secure their site.
This isn’t bolting the stable door after the horse is gone! If they don’t like your plans, they or others with similar beliefs will be back.