Maria Caulfield MP has welcomed Government plans to consult on increasing powers to deal with illegal traveller encampments.
The plans include consulting on proposals to extend police powers to remove travellers from illegal sites on to authorised sites, conducting a review into a new criminal trespass offence, increasing support for local authority enforcement action, and reforming the planning system to tackle unauthorised development and encampments.
Maria Caulfield MP said “The Government’s planned actions are the right approach to tackle unauthorised encampments that are detrimental to the settled population and often an invasion of privacy for those whose land is taken over.”
“I know that many residents will support new and extended powers for both the police and local authorities to deal with the issue of illegal traveller encampments and that they will join me in welcoming the Government’s commitment on this issue.”
Details of the Government’s plans are set out below:
Extended police powers to tackle trespassers
The Government will consult on proposals to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to:
• Permit the police to direct trespassers to suitable authorised sites located in neighbouring local authority areas;
• Increase the period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return;
• Lower the number of vehicles needing to be involved in an unauthorised encampment before police powers can be exercised – changing this from six or more, to two or more; and
• Enable the police to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the highway.
Considering a new criminal trespass offence
The Home Office will conduct a review that will consider whether it should criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an encampment. This will consider the financial and operational impacts that new legislation would have, investigate the effectiveness of similar legislation in Ireland and consider how such a power could work in practice. This could act as a real deterrent to such activity in the future, and it is therefore right that this option is explored fully.
Additional support for local authority enforcement activities
• New statutory good practice guidance to support local authorities use of powers to deal with unauthorised encampments; and a commitment to keep these powers under review, particularly in instances of deliberate and repeated breaches of planning.
• Further work to ensure that measures are in place to address issues around the clean-up costs which can occur following an unauthorised encampment.
• Up to £1.5 million of funding for local authorities to support planning enforcement through the next round of the Planning Delivery Fund, helping them deal with unauthorised development (i.e. where unauthorised sites are on land owned by travellers).
• Extending the period of time that a Temporary Stop Notice can be in place for.
Further reforms to the planning system to tackle unauthorised development and encampments
• New guidance making clear that the Communities Secretary will be prepared to review planning cases where concerns are raised that there is too high a concentration of authorised traveller sites in one location.
• Strengthening policy on intentional unauthorised development, helping to maintain confidence and fairness in the planning system.
• Make information on permanent and transit sites freely available in open data format so that local authorities have a single clear source of data on the availability of such sites.