Government announces plans to tackle illegal traveller sites

Date published: 07 February 2019

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has set out draft measures aimed at making it easier for officers to intervene and remove travellers from land they should not be on, it was announced on Wednesday (6 February).

The measures include reducing the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised and extending the period during which travellers would be unable to return to land from three to 12 months.

The Home Office will also consult further on making it a criminal offence to set up an unauthorised encampment, which is currently defined in law as trespassing, a civil matter.

In addition, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced it will provide local authorities with practical and financial support to handle unauthorised encampments.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens - but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of their community and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby.

“There is a widespread perception that the law does not apply to travellers and that is deeply troubling.

“The result of our initial consultation was clear - people want to see greater protection for local communities and for the police to be given greater power to crack down on trespassers.”

President of the CLA, which represents farmers and landowners, Tim Breitmeyer has welcomed the proposals.

He said: “Illegal encampments in rural areas can have a detrimental economic, environmental and social impact on local businesses and communities as well as to the private landowner, and we welcome this announcement from the Home Secretary.

“The time it takes to seek the successful removal of an encampment varies widely. Existing police powers for removal have proved ineffective on private land, resulting in frustration to the landowner who has to use alternative legal mechanisms, which are often time consuming and expensive.

“Making it a criminal offence to set up an unauthorised residential camp would act as a deterrent to those who might consider occupying land without consent and provide greater certainty for the police to act if they understand that an offence has been committed.

“However, this will mean the Government will need to ensure there is suitable provision of lawful traveller sites through up-to-date local plan policies to avoid the issues that arise from unauthorised encampments.

“We look forward to engaging with the forthcoming consultation to bring about this change in the law.”

Peter Maynard, the council’s housing services manager, said: “We are studying the government’s new proposals to see how they will work alongside the robust policies we already have in place to deal with unauthorised encampments.”

Greater Manchester Police has also been contacted for comment.

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