A COUNCIL has locked the gates of one of its major parks after reports of caravans parked illegally in a leisure centre car park.

Over the weekend, reports came in of an illegal encampment installing itself in Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon.

As a safety measure, Maldon District Council locked the gates to Promenade Park which is located next to the leisure centre.

The council is working with authorities to deal with the situation.

A spokesman said: “The Council was made aware of an illegal encampment at Blackwater Leisure Centre yesterday evening (February 21), and we are currently working with Essex County Council’s Countywide Traveller Unit who are taking the necessary steps to seek their removal at the earliest opportunity.

“The car park gates have been temporarily closed as a precautionary measure to prevent any further incursion.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard: A bird's eye view of the caravans parked in Blackwater Leisure Centre. Photo: Simon FarrA bird's eye view of the caravans parked in Blackwater Leisure Centre. Photo: Simon Farr

According to Essex County Council, some groups may choose to move on after a few days. 

The council may allow groups to stay longer if they are compliant. 

If a court order is necessary, the legal process takes seven to ten working days which is dictated by legal requirements and can't be shortened.

A county council spokesman added: “Officers from the Essex County Traveller Unit have visited the Blackwater Leisure Centre site and are working in partnership with officers from Maldon District Council to manage the site.

"Legal processes to remove the travellers from the site have been initiated.

"A nomadic way of life is not against the law. 

"The code for unauthorised encampments in Essex is a policy for the management of unauthorised camping on local authority or partner land.

"Subject to the satisfactory assessment of the following factors, the Essex Countywide Traveller Unit will not normally pursue immediate action if there is a mutually agreed departure date, and continued compliance with the code."

Unauthorised encampments are a civil matter of trespass and, in the first instance, landowners have powers to get an encampment to move.