A charity that supports travelling communities has hit out after Richmond Council were granted powers to criminalise the lives of the controversial groups.

The authority went to the High Court to ask for an injunction that means officers will not have to go through such a lengthy process to kick travellers off publicly owned land.

Under existing rules, it can take up to three weeks.

The High Court agreed to the injunction, making Richmond the latest in a growing number of councils across London who have had similar requests granted.

But the London Gypsies & Travellers (LGT) charity has warned that these powers do not address the real problem – the dearth of suitable spots for groups to stay.

Debby Kennet, CEO of LGT, said: “We are very concerned about the implications of such injunctions for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers.

“The injunctions against ‘persons unknown’ criminalise the traditional way of life for all Gypsies and Travellers living on roadside camps.

“There is a serious shortage of authorised sites and stopping places, meaning that many Gypsies and Travellers are forced onto unauthorised encampments with no other options.”

Across London, just 10 new pitches have been built on existing sites.

RELATED: High Court judge grants temporary Traveller ban in Richmond

But a study commissioned by the Greater London Authority in 2008 identified a need for more than 800.

LGT wants councils to support the more “humane” response of negotiated stopping, whereby the authority will agree certain conditions with a group of travellers, such as how long they can stay, how to dispose of waste, and sometimes behavioural conditions.

Richmond’s injunction is temporary, lasting just three months, but the council has said it intends to pursue a permanent order once the current one runs out.

Councillor Martin Elengorn, cabinet member for environment, planning and sustainability, said: “We regularly see a number of illegal traveller camps in our borough.

“Not only do the vehicles damage our parks and open spaces, but the community are deterred from using the parks. There is also occasional anti-social behaviour.

“When this happens, residents ask the council and local police to remove the travellers swiftly. However, we have to work within the law and the current process is lengthy.

“This new temporary injunction, will speed up the process, apply across all council land and act as a deterrent to future would-be campers.”