Stronger powers to remove camps

Travellers on playing fields used by Shaw Cross Sharks
Travellers on playing fields used by Shaw Cross Sharks

Councils should be quicker to clamp down on illegal travellers site, said local government secretary Eric Pickles.

He has issued new guidance to councils on their legal rights on how to remove travellers’ sites and squatters from both public and private land.

And new Temporary Stop Notices give councils powers to tackle unauthorised caravans, backed up with potentially unlimited fines.

Mr Pickles said: “We’ve strengthened councils’ powers so they have the confidence to take decisive action. Too often, council officers wash their hands, and say nothing can be done. This is not the case. The public want to see fair play, with planning rules enforced consistently, rather than special treatment being given to certain groups.”

In recent months, travellers have set up camps at Dewsbury’s Railway Station and Cliffe Street car parks, Sands Lane and Shaw Cross Sharks rugby grounds; Vernon Road and Millbridge Park in Liversedge; Moor End Rec in Cleckheaton; Dale lane, Heckmondwike and Miry Lane in Hightown.

In the majority of cases, Kirklees Council has applied to the County Court to get them evicted under trespassing law, and the travellers have moved on before court proceedings take place.

A Kirklees Council spokesperson said: “This process is relatively quick and is the most expedient and cost-effective means to recover possession of land from trespassers. Different rules apply if the unlawful encampment is taking place on highway land and the police also have powers to deal with unlawful encampments.”

The Gypsy Council has accused the government of “reinforcing negative stereotypes” about travellers.