Tackling unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller encampments
We have undertaken preventative work at fifteen different council-owned Gypsy and Traveller sites that have been vulnerable to encampments previously. Preventative measures included installing height barriers, bunding, ditches and strengthening gates.
We’ve also been advising private landowners on suitable measures to make to protect their land. We have been liaising with Highways England to strengthen their prevention measures at Junction 12 of the M1. This site now has concrete blocks in front and behind the gates.
So far, the preventative work has resulted in a 55% reduction of encampments on council-owned land, and a 26% reduction across all land in Central Bedfordshire (based on figures from 1 January to 1 October 2017 compared to 2018).
We employ a full-time, dedicated Gypsy and Traveller Unauthorised Encampment Officer. This officer responds to reports of unauthorised encampments so that there are no delays in the process, and ensures better coordination with the health visitor service, police and neighbouring local authorities.
The legal process for us to evict unauthorised encampments takes around ten working days to complete. We have to follow national processes. We’d like to see current legislation changed in two ways:
- speed up the process so we can evict more quickly
- strengthen the restrictions to stop any travellers returning to a wider area, not just a certain group.
We, along with the local MPs, have been raising this issue with the relevant minister. Following on, the government recently undertook a consultation, asking for suggestions for how the legislation could be changed. We responded with our views. Meanwhile, we continue to work with local MPs to push for changes in the legislation.