Dame Caroline Spelman is urging local residents to take part in a Government consultation on new powers to tackle illegal or unauthorised traveller encampments.
The Meriden MP, who has previously raised the impact of unauthorised traveller encampments on local communities in Parliament, welcomed the consultation, which is seeking views on how to strengthen local authority and police powers in order to deal with illegal incursions.
The consultation focuses on:
· Extending the circumstances in which police can direct trespassers to leave land
· Joint working between local authorities and the police in dealing with unauthorised encampments
· Existing powers available to landowners to deal with unauthorised and illegal encampments
· Improving access to authorised traveller sites
· The impact of these proposals on the travelling community
At the present time, the law regards traveller incursions as a civil (trespass) offence. Therefore, it is necessary for local council to pursue a court order to have sites cleared. It is only possible for the police to intervene to move on an illegal encampment when there is sufficient evidence that links that encampment to crime and when the camp comprises of a total of six vehicles or more.
To strengthen local protections, Solihull Council recently secured an injunction against a family of travellers known to the police and local authorities, whom have been reported to have caused significant distress and nuisance across the West Midlands in recent years.
Dame Caroline said, “Unauthorised encampments, such as many of those which we saw last summer in Solihull, can cause local residents significant distress, and they portray a negative image of the travelling community, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding citizens.
“I welcome the fact that the Government is now seeking local views in order to strengthen the laws that protect local communities from illegal and unauthorised encampments. In particular, the Minister is keen to understand our views on whether existing measures should be strengthened, and how public authorities can use the powers available to them more effectively.
“To that end, I would encourage local residents to take part in this consultation or write to me with their views so that I may provide them to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government for the Government to consider alongside this survey”.
The consultation is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/powers-for-dealing-with-unauthorised-development-and-encampments