Legal action starts over cliff campers who refuse help

November 27, 2015 by Southend Borough Council

Legal action starts over cliff campers who refuse help

Thursday 26th November 2015

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has reluctantly started legal proceedings against six people camping illegally on the Southend Cliffs.

The move follows several offers of help over many weeks and repeated pleas from the council to take up assistance and comes as winter night shelters have opened for the next 17 weeks.

The campers were issued with a ‘notice to vacate’ last Friday (20th November) which gave them 24 hours to leave. The council also applied for a possession order and injunction earlier this week for the surrounding areas of the Cliffs Gardens and Southchurch Park. There will be a hearing on Friday 27 November 2015 at 10am at the Southend County Court.

The council has successfully helped at least 23 individuals in the area, but 6 still remain.

Cllr Ron Woodley, Leader of the Council, says: “I urged those camping on the cliffs to take up our final offers of assistance back in September, and I am pleased to say that many have been successfully helped.

“However, having made several attempts to engage with those remaining, we have now exhausted all of our options and have no choice but to take this action. Those remaining are refusing any help or assistance, so for their own welfare and safety we must do this. It is getting colder, and this is an unsafe cliff slip area that has been and still is subject to land movement and it is not hygienic to be there.

“This is a very difficult situation and there will be many supporting our action, and many others that do not agree. What I would say is that we have taken a great deal of time over this and allowed as much time as possible to engage, some would say too long. We have been as compassionate as we can be, but we must now be pragmatic for the good of those remaining, and for the good of the residents of our Borough. Today the winter night shelters open, and so those remaining on the cliffs have the opportunity for food and shelter for the next 17 weeks.

“I do not want to be taking legal action in this situation and I absolutely have compassion with their plight. However, we have gone well above and beyond what we are obliged to do, making several offers of help and support.

“Instead of facilitating rough sleeping by allowing camping in parks, our policy as a Council is to enable people to get into accommodation where a professional support network is available to address their holistic needs. We have done just that and it has now been several weeks since many of their arrivals.”


Outreach workers from St Mungos Broadway have regularly visited each of the campers on behalf of the Council to assess their housing and support needs and worked closely with local organisations including HARP, Family Mosaic, STARs, Probation, SEPT to provide support and accommodation, either within Southend or outside the Borough in the cases of those who have travelled to the area.

In total, our outreach workers have engaged with over 30 individuals on the Cliffs, 23 of which have moved on, with at least 15 of those successfully accommodated, reconnected with their local area, or are continuing to engage with homeless support services locally and work towards a long term solution to their homelessness.

Six people still remain. Since September we have seen more people join the area and subsequently leave.

Offers of assistance have included:
Night shelter accommodation
Assistance with accessing benefits they may be entitled to
Reconnection with support services in the areas where they have previously lived
Referral to drug and alcohol addiction services, where appropriate
Referral to mental health services, where appropriate

Night shelters:

For the last three winters, seven churches have been able to cover one night a week each.

They provided meals and shelter for 155 guests in 2012 - 13, 137 guests in 2013 - 14, and 125 guests in 2014 - 15.

This winter, the night shelters will run Monday 23rd November to 18th March (17 weeks). HARP will be allocating guests (20 maximum each night) to the shelters by using an agreed referral process. Therefore, potential guests should go to HARP’s Bradbury Centre (in York Road) before 2pm (Monday - Friday only).


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